DURHAM, N.C. – Georgia Tech ventured to Cameron Indoor Stadium for one final attempt to surmount Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his No. 2 Blue Devils, in the arena he made a basketball shrine and on the court that bears his name.

The Yellow Jackets challenged Duke on defensive end of the floor, but Tuesday night’s game played out the way most of their trips to Cameron since Krzyewski took over at Duke in 1980 – with a loss in which discrepancies in talent and free throws contributed to the 67-59 final score.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Tech in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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“They’re as good as any team in the country, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Josh Pastner said.

Tech lost its sixth game in the past seven Tuesday night. Tech’s path to defeat could be found in two particular columns of the box scores – offensive rebounds and free throws. On offense, Duke hauled in 14 of 39 available rebounds, leading to 17 second-chance points, compared with eight for the Jackets. More than a few of them came from the free-throw line, where Duke shot 40 times (making 26) compared with 12 for the Jackets.

Duke spent more than half the game – 22:02 – in the bonus, compared with the final 7:25 for Tech.

The Jackets (6-7, 0-3 ACC) lost for the sixth time in their past seven games, five of them to teams in the top 35 of KenPom and the sixth No. 53. Barring a postseason meeting, Krzyzewski will finish his 42-year run with the Blue Devils (12-1, 2-1) with a 61-19 record against Tech, including 38-5 in Durham. After the game, Pastner and Krzyzewski spoke at length at the end of the postgame handshake line.

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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“We would prefer to get to the free-throw line more than just 12 times, but I’m going to take the high road on it,” Pastner said. “I know the officials have a tough job.”

According to sports-reference.com, it was the largest free-throw disparity in an opponent’s favor against Tech since at least the 2010-11 season.

“It can be frustrating, but it’s a game at the end of the day,” said forward Khalid Moore, who played an effective and hard-fought 24 minutes before fouling out. “You never know how the whistle’s going to blow so you’ve just got to play through it.”

Down 35-23 at the half, the Jackets showed more fight and composure in the second half. Tech cut the lead to six on three separate occasions – the last time on a layup by guard Michael Devoe with 3:18 left, two of his game-high 21 points – but Duke answered each time with a basket to prevent a further advance by the Jackets.

Early in the second half, the Jackets capped a 5-0 run when forward Saba Gigiberia tossed in a hook shot with his left hand to cut the lead to 40-34. Momentum was building for the Jackets. On the next possession, Duke’s Wendell Moore missed from close range. A Tech rebound could have ended the possession and enabled the Jackets to cut the lead to three or four. But Duke forward A.J. Griffin was first to the ball and scored on a putback. Watching from the Tech bench, Pastner slammed the scorer’s table in frustration. Pastner called the 17-8 differential in second-chance points the difference in the game, even more than the free-throw disparity.

“They got a lot of key offensive rebounds at key times,” Pastner said. “Unfortunately, that was a big difference right there.”

It didn’t help Tech that center Rodney Howard, who had started the Jackets’ first 11 games, sat out again with an ankle injury. The Jackets contended with 6-foot-10 forward Paolo Banchero (17 points and 11 rebounds) and 7-0 center Mark Williams (10 points and 14 rebounds) with Jordan Meka (6-8), Gigiberia (7-1) and Moore (6-7).

“What Coach would say is toughness at the end of the day,” said Devoe, explaining Duke’s edge on the offensive glass. “Regardless of height or weight or muscle or any of that type of stuff, we’ve got to be tough. For us, it doesn’t matter about height. We’ve got to go down there and crash the boards and do all those type of things.”

Duke appeared to show rust after not having played since Dec. 22 because of COVID-19, having gotten its full team for practice only on Monday. Hampered by a feisty defensive effort by Tech, the Blue Devils shot 37.3%, well below their season rate of 49.4%.

Georgia Tech forward Jordan Meka (23) drives under the basket while Duke forward Theo John (12) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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The Jackets lost their grasp on the game in the final five-plus minutes of the first half. A Devoe 3-pointer cut Duke’s lead to 22-21 with 5:32 remaining in the first half.

The Jackets scored only two points the rest of the way, a pair of free throws by guard Kyle Sturdivant. Tech had chances – Gigiberia had a clear scoring chance in the post but took too long to get the ball up. Devoe was errant on an alley-oop pass to forward Jordan Usher in transition. Coming out of a timeout, a set play got Meka a lay-in that he couldn’t put down.

The Jackets had difficulty making clean passes, slowing down an offense that already was struggling against Duke’s tight man-to-man defense and length.

Duke, meanwhile, pounded the offensive glass and wore a path to the free-throw line. The half ended with Duke up 35-23. The teams shot similarly from the field – 8-for-32 for Tech to 9-for-29 for the Blue Devils – but Duke shot 19 free throws (making 14) while Tech was a mere 4-for-4.