Given room, Laettner helps Duke wreck Tech Center scores 33 in 97-84 victory

January 12, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

DURHAM, N.C. -- Christian Laettner could see clearly yesterday. After being bogged down by collapsing defenses the past few games, Duke's All-America center saw the man-to-man coverage by Georgia Tech.

He might not see it again for a while.

Laettner got Matt Geiger into early foul trouble and gave the 14th-ranked Yellow Jackets fits all afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Scoring from a variety of angles and distances, the 6-foot-10 senior scored a season-high 33 points and led the top-ranked Blue Devils to a 97-84 knockout of Georgia Tech.

"Even though they were playing some zone in the first half, there was still room for him to operate," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team won its 10th straight game without a defeat this season and its fourth straight in the ACC. "If you saw our Maryland game, I think he was shocked to see there was room to maneuver."

After Geiger, Tech's 7-1 center, picked up two early fouls, Laettner scored the first 12 straight in a 19-7 run that enabled Duke to build a 43-34 lead. With Georgia Tech trailing, 60-52, early in the second half, Laettner scored 11 in a 23-4 run that pushed the Blue Devils ahead by 27.

Laettner showed his versatility, scoring on power drives, pull-up jumpers, rim-rattling dunks and one three-point shot. He also had a game-high 11 rebounds and three steals to go along with his ACC career-high point total. One more thing: He made 15 of 19 shots from the field.

"The last three or four games, there were always two people with me, and when I caught the ball, three," said Laettner, who scored 13 against Maryland on Wednesday night. "That's fine, as long as we're winning. Today, the reverse happened. I caught the ball, and there was only one person on me."

First it was Geiger, who picked up two fouls in less than six minutes and his third with 7 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the first half, shortly after coming back into the game. Then it was sophomore reserve Ivano Newbill, who was overmatched by Laettner. And for most of the second half, it was junior forward Malcolm Mackey.

"Laettner's a great player; he's a pro prospect," said Mackey, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia Tech. "The key to him is that he's got good surroundings. If you dig on him, he's going to kick it out. If you don't, he's going to take it right to the basket."

Mackey was referring to Laettner's teammates. All five Duke starters scored in double figures. Forwards Grant Hill and Brian Davis each shot five of seven from the field to finish with 12 and 14 points, respectively. Point guard Bobby Hurley had 17 points and 12 assists and Thomas Hill had 13 points. Duke shot 41 of 69 from the field.

"They're a great basketball team," said Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, whose team's six-game winning streak was broken. "They are a delight to watch. They're really hard to play against. They are really something else. They play so aggressive and they're so well-coached. They've got the whole package."

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