ATLANTA — Duke used its ninth starting lineup in its 15th game Wednesday night and, as has become usual, players not in that starting five helped deliver win No. 14.
Joey Baker got career start No. 2, but his four minutes played were his fewest in a game since November.
Jordan Goldwire came off the bench and played a career-high 37 minutes.
Though senior captains Jack White and Javin DeLaurier played a combined eight minutes after halftime, they both made plays in the final 20 minutes that allowed the No. 2 Blue Devils to beat Georgia Tech 73-64 in Atlanta.
“It’s the way our team’s been,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s like a collection of guys hopefully doing enough to come up with a big-time ... that’s a big-time win.”
The Blue Devils (14-1, 4-0 ACC), who face Wake Forest at home today, Saturday, (8 p.m., ACC Network), are using their bench more this season than in any other in over 10 years. Krzyzewski regularly uses 10 players, usually in the first half alone.
On Jan. 4, after a 96-62 win at Miami, Krzyzewski said it works out well that no one needs to play 30-plus minutes in every game this season as was often the case over the past 10 years.
Freshman guard Wendell Moore’s broken right hand, which needed surgery to repair Monday, changed that against Georgia Tech.
But Duke is more equipped to handle such a disruption this season. Krzyzewski said the team doesn’t have a rotation, instead using the available players as needed to handle the challenges each game presents.
“All our guys should consider themselves starters because you are not playing behind anybody,” Krzyzewski said. “If someone comes in, you don’t have to be like the guy you came in for. All you have to do is be you, and then we have a little bit different look. That’s the kind of team we tried to build our team on.”
With Krzyzewski using only nine players because of Moore’s absence, sophomore point guard Tre Jones (39 minutes) and freshman forward Matthew Hurt (33) joined Goldwire in exceeding the 30-minute plateau.
Not having Moore’s athleticism available caused Krzyzewski to lean more on those three players.
The 6-foot-7 Baker, a sophomore known best for his shooting, struggled early with the game’s pace. He committed a foul and a turnover before being removed. Krzyzewski smacked him on the butt as he reached the bench and assistant coach Nate James chatted with Baker. He didn’t play in the second half.
That meant more minutes for Goldwire, a junior guard who had only 2 points but delivered two steals and two assists. He teamed with Jones in the backcourt to help contain Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado, who scored 18 points but also committed four turnovers.
“I just think our kids were real tough,” Krzyzewski said. “They made some big plays, Tre and Jordan Goldwire defensively.”
On the interior, Georgia Tech big men James Banks and Moses Wright were a handful. Their work inside — 25 rebounds combined — allowed the Yellow Jackets to win the rebounding battle 39-30, the first time an opponent has secured more rebounds in game against Duke since the season-opener against Kansas.
Their play, along with Georgia Tech’s guards driving off ball screens, caused Duke to have to keep adjusting its defense.
“They were just killing us,” Krzyzewski said. “We read it or trapped it and that worked for the (first) half. In the second half, we didn’t do it as well and they kind of responded. Then we had to change a little bit with that.”
The 6-9 Hurt helped inside with his length as he blocked two shots and contributed six rebounds and 11 points.
Duke’s main force in the middle, 6-10 freshman Vernon Carey, scored 14 points with six rebounds and four turnovers in his 25 minutes played.
This is where White and DeLaurier made their impact.
With Georgia Tech leading 53-50, White replaced Hurt to give the freshman a rest. Wright, the Raleigh Enole High graduate, attempted a layup with 8:48 left, but White slid over to successfully block it without fouling.
Jones grabbed the rebound to start a fast break, where he uncorked a long lob pass for a Cassius Stanley slam dunk. Stanley was fouled and added a free throw to tie the game at 53 and turn momentum back in Duke’s favor with 8:44 to play.
With 7:14 to play, White’s 3-pointer erased the last lead Georgia Tech held and put the Blue Devils up 58-57.
DeLaurier’s crucial contributions came in the game’s final two minutes.
Krzyzewski subbed him in for Carey with 2:05 to play. Georgia Tech had possession w With Duke up 68-64, DeLaurier blocked Wright’s shot at the rim with 1:57 to play. Though Wright grabbed the rebound, DeLaurier’s defense led to another missed shot six seconds later.
With the score still 68-64, tThe 6-10 DeLaurier blocked Banks’ shot with 56 seconds left, got the offensive rebound and drew a foul.
His two free throws with 55 seconds left extended Duke’s lead to a far more comfortable 70-64 and the Blue Devils finished off the win.
Watching from the bench, Carey was impressed.
“I feel like he won the game for us, really, with that block” he said. “If Banks grabbed the rebound, he probably would have kicked it out for a 3 or something. So his block really saved us.”
That’s how this Duke season looks to go, with contributors up and down the bench, each finding their moment.