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Duke Throttles Virginia Tech, 72-65

After a relatively easy first half, Virginia Tech decided to make a game of it in the second and really gave Duke all they had. Fortunately for Duke, that wasn't enough, and the Devils won 72-65.Duke was really efficient on offense in the first half and had no problem scoring.  Tech, on the other hand, seemed to lack any sort of cohesion.  At one point in the second half they had as many turnovers as baskets.  Duke really disrupted them defensively, holding them to five points for the first 9:08.  Tech didn't break double digits until the 8:40 mark.

Still, this game more or less represented Tech's life when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, and eventually, they played like it.

Or at least A.D. Vassallo did, anyway.

In the second half, he got hot - very hot.

He started with a coast-to-coast dunk which cut the lead to 49-41.  Then he made back-to-back threes.  Then a layup and a dunk.  At one juncture, he was personally responsible for 15 of Tech's 17 points in their run.

Duke adjusted, though, and for the last 6:18, all he managed were a pair of free throws in the last half-minute and Tech only had two other offensive options in this game:  Jeff Allen, who was 4-6 and 5-7 from the line for 13.  And J.T. Thompson scored 13.  Vassallo also grabbed 13 boards, by the way.  Their excellent point guard, Malcolm Delaney, was held to 2-12, all though he did rack up eight assists.

After a near-disastrous first-half, Tech did manage to pull into a tie, but they never managed to pull ahead.  And just from watching the game, from our perspective, it didn't seem like they were going to be able to do it.  Every so often a game that should make you nervous doesn't.  If you listen to your gut, you know what's going to happen (in College Park, they practice this well, and expect to lose often).

For Duke, after a 17 point first half, Gerald Henderson finished with 21 points, six  boards, and six assists.  Kyle Singler also finished with 21, along with four boards and three assists. Jon Scheyer finished with 16 points,  four rebounds, three steals, and another solid all-around game.

So now Duke is 4-0 since Elliot Williams became a starter, and it's about time to just go ahead an unanimously call it a good move.  The kid has had a huge effect on the team and in fact you could argue that it's the third team Duke's had this year, with the first being the one that started Brian Zoubek and Nolan Smith and was so dramatically effective defensively, the second being when the focus switched from defense to an imbalanced offense.  And now we have the third one - Five forwards, as Bob Knight calls it, all versatile and effective, and with Williams being the defensive key and a useful offensive performer as well.

While Duke has clearly toughened up recently, there is something to be concerned about:  in late-game situations, various Devils have missed free throws, and at times ball movement has been problematic.  The margin of error in the postseason is pretty small, and that part of the game is critical.
Still, here's where they are: if they can pull off Florida State this weekend, they head to Chapel Hill with a chance to either tie or to finish in first place.  If they beat FSU, they can tie, regardless; if UNC loses to Virginia Tech, then Duke could win it.  Not many people believed that was possible at the beginning of the year.