“Before, when the ACC put out their little rankings, we was ranked, like, last or 13th,” Tech guard Miles Kelly said. “It’s definitely sending a shock because I’m pretty sure nobody expected us to beat Duke, especially this early.”
Kelly had 16 in the win, but Ndongo was the star of the show.
Originally from Senegal, Ndongo had missed Tech’s first three games of the seasons with an injury. But Saturday he announced to the ACC, Atlanta and Tech fans in a major way with his defensive and offensive performance over 21 minutes of action.
The 6-foot-9 forward had Tech’s last two field goals of the night, the second coming off an alley-oop. He also blocked Jeremy Roach’s game-tying layup with three seconds to go.
“I was just doing my job. That’s what I’m here for. I’m a shot-blocker. I think everybody knows that,” Ndongo said. “I was just playing the game the right way and listened to my coaches and playing to win. And I think I did.”
After Kelly iced the game with two free throws on the other end, Tech students rushed the court in celebration of the team’s second win over a ranked opponent this week.
“Since I’ve been here as a freshman and sophomore, we haven’t been able to get (Duke),” Kelly said. “So junior year I made it the plan to hopefully come out and get a win. That’s what we did tonight. Just to seal the deal, it just means the world to me.”
Kowacie Reeves chipped in 14 for the Jackets (4-2, 1-0 ACC). Freshman point guard Nait George had nine assists, part of a season-high 19 assists for Tech.
Tech also had 27 defensive rebounds in the victory. The Blue Devils (5-3, 0-1 ACC) went 4-of-16 on 3-point shots and missed eight free throws. They also played much of the game without starting point guard Tyrese Proctor, who exited the game after 76 seconds because of an apparent leg injury.
The Jackets now head to Georgia (5-3) for a 7:30 p.m. game Tuesday.
“Like I told the guys in the locker room,” Tech coach Damon Stoudamire said, “‘Enjoy this until midnight, and then we gotta figure out Georgia.’ Nothing’s changed with our mission. Our mission is to be the best team we can possibly be.”
With the score tied at 60-60 late in the game Saturday, Deebo Coleman put the Jackets up by two with a jumper on the right side of the floor. The Blue Devils quickly snatched the lead back, their first since being up 23-21 with 6:58 remaining in the first half, and had a 66-62 advantage after back-to-back Mark Mitchell dunks.
Mitchell, however, was given a technical foul after his second slam. That led to two free throws and a jumper from Kelly which tied the game at 66-66.
With the score knotted at 68-68 moments later, George found Ndongo for an alley-oop making the score 70-68 with 44 ticks on the clock.
That’s where the score sat as Duke came down the court and called timeout with 18 seconds remaining. The Blue Devils called yet another timeout after 13 seconds of play and not being able to find an open shot. When play resumed they tried to go inside with Roach, but Ndongo was there to shut it down.
“We pretty much had a game plan and a scouting report, and the guys executed it. It’s hard to guard Jeremy Roach on the empty-side ball screen when you got one of the best players in the country (center Kyle Filipkowski) setting the screen,” Stoudamire said. “But I thought we did a good job of fighting. I thought we did a good job of being in gaps pretty much all game.
“Those last 18 seconds it comes down to a chess match and what you’re looking for. We were able to get the stops. I’m proud of the guys. (Nov. 22) we lost by 35 (at Cincinnati) and we come back and the next week we’re able to beat two ranked teams and, again, I’m just proud of these guys.”
Tech came out hotter than hot at the outset and forced a Duke timeout less than four minutes into the contest. The Jackets hit four 3′s en route to a 12-2 lead and each make was assisted on, including the fourth one, when George cut down the left baseline and whipped a pass to Reeves in the right corner, where he drained the 3-pointer.
Duke went more than six minutes after its first field goal before making another one and started 1-of-9 from the floor. But the Blue Devils stayed the course and crept within 21-18 on a Caleb Foster layup, the product of a Tech turnover, that forced a Stoudamire timeout with 8:24 to go in the half. A Roach step-back 3 from right of center with 6:58 on the clock gave Duke its second lead at 23-21.
The Jackets responded with a 10-2 run to get up 31-23 on Kelly’s 3 from the left wing.
Tech held that lead the remainder of the half and went into the locker room up 35-31. The Jackets had nine assists on 13 made field goals in the first half, led for all but 1:38 and collected 17 defensive rebounds.
A George alley-oop to Ebenezer Dowuona early in the second half pushed Tech’s lead to 43-32. With 11-1/2 minutes to go, Coleman’s three-point play kept the Jackets ahead 52-44.
Duke put together a 7-0 spurt minutes later and was within 56-53 with 8:13 on the clock. But after a timeout, and with the shot clock winding down, Ndongo got his defender in the air on a shot fake in the left corner, drove the baseline and brought the house down with a right-handed slam to beat the buzzer.
The Blue Devils, however, refused to go away and knotted the score at 60-60 with a pair of free throws. That set up the final four dramatic minutes.
Duke was led by Roach’s 20 points. Filipkowski finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“For me it was our defense. When we needed key stops; we didn’t get ‘em,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “Credit Georgia Tech. They were ready to play. They were ready to go, man. They did a great job, and we didn’t do enough. It’s a disappointing loss, and it’s something that we have to learn from.”