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COLLEGE HOOPS ROUNDUP: Georgia Tech stuns Duke; UK drops UGA

Photo by John Bazemore

Photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech was a team on a mission. It showed.

Duke was just plain tired. That showed, too.

Gani Lawal scored 21 points, including a crucial shot with just over a minute remaining, and No. 20 Georgia Tech bounced back from a dismal loss with a 71-67 upset of the fifth-ranked Blue Devils on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets avoided an 0-2 start in conference play and made up for Tuesday's 73-66 loss to state rival Georgia, a team that doesn't have nearly as much as talent.

"This was a great bounce-back win," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "The guys were really disappointed about that game the other night."

Lawal worked the boards hard, putting back two straight misses during one pivotal stretch, and Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) went ahead for good on yet another hustle play. Zachery Peacock grabbed an airball under the basket and flipped in a shot that put Georgia Tech ahead 62-60 with 1:52 remaining.

After Kyle Singler missed again for Duke (13-2, 1-1) on a 3-pointer -- the junior forward was 2 for 13 from the field -- Lawal knocked down an awkward turnaround jumper from about 10 feet to give the Yellow Jackets some breathing room.

"I've practiced that shot. I knew it was good when it left my hand," Lawal said. "I told the guys, 'Just find a way to get me the ball.'"

The Blue Devils were stymied by a miserable performance beyond the arc (6 for 28 on 3-pointers), had their slim depth exposed by foul trouble (Lance Thomas picked up his fifth with more than 10 minutes left, three other players finished with four) and didn't provide star Jon Scheyer much help.

The point guard followed up a 31-point effort against Iowa State with another strong showing. He scored 25 points and chipped in with six assists. But Mason Plumlee, with 10 points off the bench, was the only other Duke player in double figures.

"Jon had a good game," Singler said. "But we kind of rely on him too much. We have to do a better job of helping him out."

The Blue Devils were playing their third game in a week, and it showed. After a pair of 21-point wins over Clemson and Iowa State, they seemed to run out of steam against a Georgia Tech team with superior depth.

"They were fresher than we were," said coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team had been on a seven-game winning streak. "They wore us down some. That can tell in the shooting, when your legs aren't completely there."

Especially from 3-point range, though Duke never stopped firing up the long-range shots. They had twice as many attempts as the Yellow Jackets but didn't get much more out of it. Georgia Tech was 5 for 14.

"I don't think we were careless," Scheyer said. "When we shoot them, we need to shoot them like we mean it."

No one looked more weary than Singler. The junior forward was held to nine points -- nearly seven below his average.

"Obviously, we didn't get the game we needed from Singler," Krzyzewski said. "I thought he had some really open looks that were there. But sometimes you don't hit."

The Yellow Jackets knew they couldn't afford another effort like the one they had against Georgia, having already lost their ACC opener at home to Florida State in overtime. They managed to avert an 0-2 start in conference play by turning up the defensive pressure on Duke, pressing and trapping much more than they did against Georgia, and crashing the boards in the second half.

"Thinking back to Tuesday, I really let us down by not pressing more and trapping more," Hewitt said. "My judgment was not right, not good."

The Blue Devils had a 20-12 rebounding edge in the opening half, but Georgia Tech dominated 26-12 after the break. Lawal led the Yellow Jackets with nine rebounds, including back-to-back plays that gave the home team a big boost.

Iman Shumpert missed on a drive, but Lawal slammed home the rebound with a thunderous dunk that left the backboard shaking. After Duke turned it over at the other end, Derrick Favors missed for the Yellow Jackets. But Lawal was in the right place again, grabbing the rebound and banking it in for a 52-47 lead.

"You don't have to tell us to do that," Lawal said. "That's just a matter of wanting the ball."

Each team had its run early on. Duke ripped off 12 straight points shortly after the opening tip, then Georgia Tech responded with a 14-2 spurt. The Blue Devils led 35-29 at halftime, and the margin was never more than that the rest of the way.

When the horn sounded, the Georgia Tech student body stormed the court. The Yellow Jackets had their first significant victory in a season of high expectations, and it won't be the last one, according to Lawal.

"When we're on top of our game," he said, "no one can stop us."

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NO. 3 KENTUCKY HANDLES GEORGIA:

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- This time, DeMarcus Cousins threw his headband -- not his elbows -- when he got angry.

Good thing. No. 3 Kentucky needed its freshman center -- and his elbows -- to hold off Georgia.

Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final 3 minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.

It was redemption of sorts for Cousins, who spent the last week fending off angry Facebook messages from Louisville fans after throwing an elbow at Louisville forward Jared Swopshire early in Kentucky's 71-62 win over the Cardinals.

Cousins received a technical foul on the play, though the TV announcers said he should have been ejected. He shrugged off the criticism but allowed he has to do better job keeping his volatile emotions in check.

He did against Georgia, staying under control despite spending most of his 25 minutes on the floor wrestling underneath the basket with the handful of Bulldogs charged with stopping him.

"I'm pretty cut up," Cousins said.

Welcome to life in the Southeastern Conference.

At one point the Bulldogs knocked off Cousins' trademark white headband while he drove to the basket. Cousins picked it up and threw it to the sideline, but kept his cool.

"I just told him to play through that," said Kentucky coach John Calipari.

Calipari rewarded Cousins' newfound maturity with the ball.

The Wildcats fed it to him constantly over the final minutes, and he responded by scoring seven straight points, including the game-clinching lay-up with 36 seconds left.

"He was a beast," Calipari said.

So was Patrick Patterson, who finished with 17 points. Freshman superstar John Wall also had 17 for the Wildcats, who moved to 16-0 for the first time since winning their first 23 games in 1965-66.

It wasn't easy. There were 12 lead changes and nine ties as Georgia hung around despite turning it over 26 times against Kentucky's unrelenting press.

The Bulldogs (8-6, 0-1 SEC) nearly pulled off their second straight upset behind a season-high 20 points from Travis Leslie and 17 points and 13 rebounds from Trey Thompkins.

Georgia knocked off No. 20 Georgia Tech on Tuesday, but couldn't duplicate the feat against the Wildcats. Kentucky wore the Bulldogs down over the final 6 minutes, limiting them to six points and forcing six turnovers.

"We turned it over too much on the road," said Georgia coach Mark Fox. "We had 13 both halves and that's too many when you're on the road. We just weren't complete on all parts of the game."

Kentucky wasn't much better. The Wildcats made just 2 of 14 3-point attempts for the second straight game, and Calipari criticized a lack of production from his bench. Kentucky's reserves had just nine points.

"For us to be one of (the good) teams, our bench is going to have to be deep," Calipari said. "It wasn't this game. Hopefully, the next game it will be fine."

Cousins' heroics didn't appear to be necessary early. The Wildcats quickly built an 11-point lead and appeared to be on cruise control in front of a capacity crowd that included movie star Ashley Judd and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Georgia, however, didn't back down. Borrowing a page from Louisville, the Bulldogs opted to get physical with the Wildcats. Georgia bumped, grabbed and nudged Wall wherever he went, and this week's Sports Illustrated cover story was mortal for most of his 34 minutes.

Wall made just 5 of 14 shots -- including two missed dunks -- and was twice whistled for traveling.

The Bulldogs did the same to Cousins, as Albert Jackson, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price all fouled out trying to keep the Wildcats in check.

"DeMarcus and Patrick are great players, everybody knows that," Thompkins said. "They have the ability to make you foul them and it just worked to perfection."

The win was the 62nd straight conference victory for Calipari. The first 61 game while he was helping Memphis run roughshod over the Conference USA.

Things will be considerably more difficult in the SEC.

"(Georgia) never quit playing and that is what happens in this league, and that was at home," Calipari said. "I can't imagine how that will be on the road."

The Wildcats find out on Tuesday when they travel to Florida.