ACC Basketball

Blue Devils Escape Blacksburg

(Photo by Jack Morton)

WHAT JUST HAPPENED:
After falling behind 15-4, “two wins in the ACC” Virginia Tech Hokies rolled, scoring on 16 of their next 18 possessions against a weak Duke man defense, to open up a surprising 39-37 lead at the half. In the second, the Hokies nailed a pair of threes from the corner (a shot that was there all night), building an eight-point lead early.

However, at the 12-minute mark, Coach K switched to a 3-2 zone and as the Hokies missed four of their next five shots, the Blue Devils kicked it into high gear, running off the misses. Duke would go on a 15-5 run, retaking the lead 61-60. From that point on in regulation, no lead stretch larger than four.

In the end, both teams had a shot to win it, but Duke’s Jahlil Okafor missed a pair of free throws, while Virginia Tech’s Jalen Hudson missed a layup in the final seconds.

In overtime, the teams traded the lead, before the Blue Devils finally started to pull away. While Tech was still hitting free throws, they actually only made two bucks in the final eight minutes of the game. Quinn Cook sealed it with a three with a minute to play, expanding Duke’s lead to four. They would end up escaping with a 91-86 overtime win.

FIVE DEEP THOUGHTS:

  • So am I supposed to give props to Virginia Tech’s offense or rip Duke for its defense? Can’t I do both? With Okafor back in the lineup, Coach K decided to protect the three line (Virginia Tech is third in the conference in 3P%) by overplaying the ball handlers. Not a bad idea, since the Hokies play a bunch of freshmen. Yet, led by Adam Smith, Devin Wilson and Jalen Hudson, Virginia Tech continually beat their man off the dribble and worked wonders in the lane, often kicking out for open threes (many from the corner). Coming off the bench, Hudson took 20 shots, scoring a season high 23 points (although he did miss his final five shots).
  • ¬†While I’ll give some props to Duke for eventually shutting down Virginia Tech (two buckets in the final eight minutes, five in the final 12), overall the coaching staff will not be happy giving up 86 points to a bad Hokie team. The problem was the same problem they had earlier this year; an inability of their guards to stop penetration. It certainly didn’t held that Okafor wasn’t the rim protecter he can be because of the ankle, but Tyus Jones and Matt Jones in particular were really bad (and Justise Winslow isn’t too far behind). It’s standard to say, “if they don’t get this fixed soon, they will be in trouble in the tournament,” but we’re 28 games into the season, we’re past that. It’s hard to see if this Duke team comes upon someone like Maryland in the Sweet 16, that they would not have a hard time beating the Terps.
  • Coming off the one game he missed, Jahlil Okafor scored 30 points Wednesday night, on 13-18 shooting from the field. It’s not that surprising. While you have to give props to Tech’s Satchel Pierce for his effort, the freshman had no shot against Duke’s more polished big man and outside of Pierce, there was no one else physically who could match up.
  • Quinn Cook…a man. What can you say about the Duke senior guard? It’s been an up-and-down career for him in Durham, but right now it’s all up. When the Blue Devils were in trouble, down seven, he scored 11 of Duke’s 17 points to get them back into the game. If anything, Cook needs to be more aggressive taking shots. After that little spirt that ended around the 8-minute mark in the second half, Cook would only take one more shot in regulation and he didn’t take one in the first 3:58 of overtime. Yet it was his corner three that turned a one-point lead into a game-deciding four-point lead. At the most, Cook has 12 games left in his college career. Put some shots up.
  • Despite how bad this year has been for Virginia Tech, Buzz Williams has to be excited about the future. Yes, this is a team that has lost by an average of 20 points per game in their last three, but at least against Duke, they showed their potential. Remember, 84 of the 86 points they scored in tonight’s game came via players who should be back next year. 69 of the points came from underclassmen and 59 of the points were scored by freshmen. If the Hokies can avoid costly transfers (think about Virginia’ Tony Bennett’s first recruiting class) and bring in some depth for the front court, this team could be solid by 2016-17.

RANDOM NOT-SO-DEEP THOUGHTS:

  • It’s kind of weird how Tyus Jones really only plays his best ball against the best competition. Not only did he struggle on D, he hit just 3-10 from the floor, 1-5 from deep. However, he did deliver nine assists to three turnovers.
  • Matt Jones…bad defender. I almost would rather see Grayson Allen.
  • If someone told me that Virginia Tech would hit 12 threes and still lose, I would have slapped that person.
  • Duke was 11-22 from the FT line. That’s going to come into play when the Blue Devils are in a single elimination game. Just ask Kentucky’s Coach Cal.

NOW WHAT:
Virginia Tech falls to 10-18 on the year, 2-13 in the ACC, as they have dropped four straight. Of course life get harder as Virginia comes to town this weekend.

The Duke Blue Devils improve to 25-3 and 12-3 in the conference, holding onto second in the ACC. They will also hold on to that all-important 1-seed. However, what this game will do is make people question this team’s ability to make noise in the NCAA Tournament. All that goodwill they’ve build up playing good defense after losing to NC State and Miami…gone. Next up, Syracuse again at home.

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