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Lawal leads Tech in upset of No. 5 Duke

The Associated Press. Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal is surrounded by students as he leaves the court after defeating No. 5 Duke 71-67 Saturday in Atlanta.

The Associated Press. Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal is surrounded by students as he leaves the court after defeating No. 5 Duke 71-67 Saturday in Atlanta.

ATLANTA -- On a day when Georgia Tech honored the 25th anniversary of its first ACC championship basketball team, its current squad attempted to turn back the clock against No. 5 Duke.

At the same time, the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets hoped to put the more recent past -- an upset loss to archrival Georgia four days earlier -- behind them.

Both tasks were accomplished Saturday as Norcross grad Gani Lawal led a spirited second-half effort to help Tech rally for a 71-67 upset of Duke before a enthusiastic sellout crowd of 9,191 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Lawal finished with team highs of 21 points and nine rebounds as the Jackets (12-3, 1-1 in the ACC) rebounded from Tuesday's disheartening loss to Georgia, their 13th straight loss at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens.

They did it by slowing down another negative trend, breaking a four-game losing streak to Duke (13-2, 1-1) and beating the Blue Devils for just the third time in the last 27 meetings between the two teams.

"It's a great bounce back win for our players," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "They put a lot into (the Georgia) game and they were really disappointed. But they bounced back with their energy. They played with a lot of energy the entire game and got us a 'W' to get us back to 1-1 in the league."

The day didn't start off all that well for the Jackets thanks to Duke's Jon Scheyer, who finished with a game-high 25 points.

Six of those points, including a rare four-point play on a made 3-pointer and foul, came in the first 4:26 after the opening tip, and helped Duke build a 12-3 lead.

But the Jackets fought back with a 14-2 run, keyed by five points and three rebounds from Lawal, and took a 17-14 lead on Lawal's stickback with 10:46 left in the first half.

However, Duke seemed to seize control, particularly on the boards.

The Blue Devils outrebounded Tech 20-12 in the opening half, while Scheyer scored five of his 13 first-half points in the final 6:03 to take a 35-29 lead into intermission.

But the second half belonged to the Jackets, and more specifically Lawal.

The 6-foot-9, 234-pound junior posted 14 points and six rebounds in the final 20 minutes and capped Tech's initial surge from a 41-35 deficit early in the half.

Lawal hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline with 12:55 remaining to give the Jackets their first lead in more than 14 minutes at 44-43.

And he converted offensive rebounds into a putback dunk and layup on consecutive trips down the floor to complete a 16-6 run, Tech had its biggest lead at 52-47 with 7:06 left to play.

"We just had to assert ourselves," Lawal said. "We were down six (at halftime) and we were playing sloppy basketball. I told (the team), 'If we could find a way to get our defensive intensity up and execute on offense, we'll win the game.'"

Duke wasn't about to go away as Nolan Smith answered with a 3-pointer and Scheyer followed with another trey less than a minute later to vault the Blue Devils back in front 53-52 with 5:56 left.

But Lawal quickly put the Jackets back in front at 54-53 with a pair of free throws on the next possession, and Tech picked up the defensive intensity Lawal talked about.

While Scheyer had his huge night, the Jackets clamped down on Duke's next two leading scorers -- Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, who each finished with just nine points, 17 points below their combined season averages.

"We can't rely on only Scheyer to score," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It set up for us to score from other places, and we didn't score from other places.

"I thought they played better than we did. I thought we played hard. We didn't play as well as we would like, but I think Georgia Tech had the most to do with that. We came ready to play, and they beat us."

Zachery Peacock, Iman Shumpert and M'fon Udofia helped make sure of that with some big plays down the stretch.

Peacock finished with 11 points, including a stickback in heavy traffic under the basket to put Tech up for good at 62-60 with 1:53 left.

Shumpert contributed three free throws in four attempts, plus an assist on a Lawal basket and two key defensive rebounds, in the final 2 minutes.

And Udofia, who chipped in with 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3-point range, applied the knockout blow with two free throws with 6 seconds left to seal the win and heal some wounds -- some years in the making, others just four days.

"We just had to forget about (Georgia) and move on," Lawal said. "Not to put extra value on any (one) game, but every ACC game some value in my eyes. They're all big games. ... This was huge."