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Duke Claws Past Hokies, 67-55

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If you're waiting for an elegant game between Duke and Virginia Tech, you should probably keep waiting. It's pretty clear at this point that what you'll get is a rough, physical game between two teams that really don't care much for each other. Which is exactly what we saw in Cameron Sunday night.

Virginia Tech is a team with some chemistry and some nice pieces, although the only truly complete one is Malcolm Delaney. But they operate at a high level on spite, and when it comes to Duke, UNC, or Virginia, they don't hold back.

We haven't been back over the tape, but we can remember at least three confrontations between players in this game, and tons of pushes, shoves and grabs.

Part of the reason why Duke had more success outside than inside for much of the game was precisely this: when a shot went up, arms went up with it. Some got called, some didn't, but that's what you can expect playing Tech. They play very hard, aggressive defense.

And that goes both ways, because Duke gave as good as they got. They lured Jeff Allen into early foul trouble and pretty much neutralized him. Delaney had a solid game, but shot just 5-19 and 2-9 from three point range, adding seven free throws to his total.

By the way, is it just us, or does Delaney play like a guy who grew late? Only a small player would develop such a rainbow of a jumpshot (much less with such a quick release). He's not now - he's 6-3 - but you get the feeling that he learned the game as a smaller guy who just had the toughness to get his shot off over much bigger opponents. Still does, for that matter.

Dorenzo Hudson was just 3-12 and Allen just 4-10. Between the three, they took 41 out of Tech's 58 shots.

Big difference in this game: Duke hit 30 from three point range; Tech six.

Duke also outrebounded the Hokies, 47-38 and offensively 23-15, and that was a major difference in this game, particularly late.

Of those totals, 16 of them were by Brian Zoubek and eight of those on the offensive end, as the senior big man put together another big rebounding night. As Seth Greenberg said of Zoubek after the game, “[h]e’s just huge. Where he effects the game is that he is a screener and a shaper and when the ball is shot he gets rebounds. He doesn’t move too far to get them, but he gets them. He’s a big physical body and he has good hands, he really has good hands.”

He might have added that Zoubek also affected a number of shots.

Offensively, the Big Three carried Duke, with Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith scoring 15, 25 and 23 respectively. And the Three Bigs? Aside from Zoubek, the Plumlees had a minimal impact. Mason got suckered into early foul trouble and Miles had a poor game in general.

Lance Thomas, still playing through a difficult bone bruise, finished with zero points - only Zoubek and Miles Plumlee scored outside of the Big Three, offering up four points - and six rebounds. He also got into some foul trouble, playing for some time in the second half with four, yet not fouling out.

Andre Dawkins got some meaningful minutes and was nicely aggressive, although his shots (0-5) didn't fall. He kept trying, though, and that's good to see.

And really, if you want to know the key to this game, that's it: Virginia Tech has made a habit of giving Duke some very, very tough games since they joined the ACC, in terms of both competition and and just being highly physical (it would be interesting to look back and see how Duke did in the games after Tech). The only choices for Duke, or anyone really, when you get this level of intensity from an opponent is to give in or push back harder.

Duke chose the latter option and as a result sits alone in first place, for now. And while there is some concern over the scoring distribution and the bench play, the basic fact is that Virginia Tech tried to hit Duke with a 2x4 and ended up getting one between their own eyes instead. Check out the endgame after the game's final tie at 47-47:

Hudson missed a three, Allen fouled, Delaney turned it over then hit two foul shots, Victor Davila missed a basket, Delaney made one, Allen got his dunk, Hudson fouled, Bell got a rebound, Delaney missed a two, Hudson got T'd up, Tech grabbed a rebound, before Delaney missed his final two three-point shots.

That's as opposed to Duke: Smith hit free throws, Zoubek rebounded, Smith missed a jumper, Zoubek got the rebound and a three-point play, thena steal, followed by a Singler trey, then a Smith basket, a Zoubek rebound, a Singler miss then his rebound, a Scheyer miss then Zoubek's next rebound, followed by Scheyer's three.

In the last 2:29, Duke scored seven points+ (a foul shot by Smith and threes by Smith and Singler) . At winning time, it was all Duke.

******

Check out this quote by Dorenzo Hudson after the game: “We knew they were going to call ticky-tac fouls coming into the game to push us out to half-court to make it hard to run our offense. For the most part, we couldn’t get the offense going in the game.”

So if we read this correctly, Hudson is saying that he knew that the officials wanted to make it hard for them to run their offense?

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