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Sumner: Duke Chokes Hokies, 85-57

Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee went out in style, leading Duke to a Senior Day win over Virginia Tech Tuesday night.

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If all you know about the game is the final score, 85-57, then you're getting a distorted view of things. The Hokies brought their A game to Durham, leading much of the first half and staying within shouting distance for much of the second half before finally running out of gas.

After spotting Duke a 1-0 lead, the Hokies used a pair of 3-pointers by Jarrell Eddie and an Erick Green jumper to surge to an 8-1 lead. Duke closed to 12-10, then fell back 17-10 before climbing the hill again.

Plumlee said that it's hard to productively channel the emotions of Senior Day. "I try not to think about it too much before the game and it still seemed like we came out thinking about it. It's hard until you realize it's possible you might lose. Then you get your head on straight."

Duke finally regained the lead at 25-24 on a Curry 3-pointer. Duke got the lead up to eight, at 36-28, with 2:41 left. This is where Duke usually puts away lesser teams. But Tech clawed back in with a 7-0 run. Kelly closed the first-half scoring with a pair of foul shots, giving the Blue Devils a tenuous 38-35 lead at intermission.

Two topics dominated the halftime discussion. The first was defense. "In the first half we didn't quite bring it on the defensive end as much as we could have," Kelly said. "But we picked it up and played like the team we can be in the second half. They have some outstanding guards and we weren't doing a good job of keeping them out. We did a better job in the second half."

Curry said Duke was "sluggish" early.

Plumlee agreed. "We just weren't containing the ball very well. We weren't keeping guys in front. We did a better job in the second half."

Virginia Tech also outrebounded Duke 21-15 in the first half. Kelly creatively calls rebounding one of Duke's "lesser strengths" and says he takes it personally. "We need to get better at it. We need everyone to go get rebounds and that's a big part of my job."

Krzyzewski said his three seniors "just asserted themselves in that second half. Mason was a bull inside. Ryan is playing a lot of minutes without being in condition. Seth's two 3s kind of got us going."

Plumlee started the second half with a pair of buckets inside, Tyler Thornton hit a 3, then Curry hit those two 3-pointers, the second making it 51-39, barely four minutes into the second half.

Green kept Tech in the game a few minutes longer but the NCAA's leading scorer just doesn't have enough help. Eddie hit a 3 to make it 53-47, with 12:36 left but didn't score the rest of the game.

At that point, Duke put the hammer down. Krzyzewski said the two problems of the first half had been taken care of.

"We had a hard time in the first half defending the ball screen. We were much better in the second half. We just defended the ball screen better. It's not our game plan to not defend the ball screen. So, they're human beings. They finally defended the ball screen the way they're supposed to defend the ball screen. The defensive rebounding? In the second half, we rebounded better. When we rebound defensively, we usually play better offensively."

Tech couldn't get open shots and didn't get second chances. The lead hit 15 at 64-49, Green scored some more, then Plumlee made five foul shots and Curry hit another 3 and the rout was on.

Duke emptied the bench and the seniors got a final curtain call, while the Hokies were going more than five minutes without a point.

The win moves Duke to 26-4 and wraps up an undefeated home season, the third time in four seasons that Duke has not lost at home. Krzyzewski calls that "a real tribute to our team that we were able to do that. It's very difficult to win every game at home with the schedule you play, with the teams we bring in here."


Curry (20), Kelly (18) and Plumlee (14) combined for 52 of Duke's 87 points, while adding 21 rebounds and 11 assists. Plumlee and Kelly led Duke with five assists each. Quinn Cook added 14 points.

Duke outrebounded Virginia Tech 22-10 in the second half, 37-31 for the game. Kelly led everybody with nine boards.

Duke also committed only four turnovers, two in each half.

Rasheed Sulaimon scored all five of his points late. Krzyzewski said that his star freshman "didn't have a motor" but that he expects him to be fine.

Curry took a hard blow to his bad shin late in the game but returned to action. He says he's fine. Krzyzewski addressed Curry's season-long injury. "In the middle of September we were told that he might not be able play this year. Everyone took a course of action to really attack the injury and come up with a plan, get some rest and move along. It's incredible."

I'll leave Krzyzewski with the final words on his trio of seniors. "How did you get this lucky to be with these people who are just the best? Believe me, I cherish the time."

Jim Sumner