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Duke 91 Virginia Tech 86 As Blue Devils Escape

Give the Hokies all the credit all the credit in the world. As we've been saying, that is a team with heart and it really showed against Duke.

Jahlil Okafor was just too big and too much for the smaller Hokies to deal with.
Jahlil Okafor was just too big and too much for the smaller Hokies to deal with.
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

ACC fans, and basketball fans in general, should stop for a minute and consider what Virginia Tech accomplished Wednesday night albeit in defeat.

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This is a team with some talent but not too much, which, since beating Presbyterian on December 27th, has won just two games, taking Pitt in overtime and Georgia Tech by two, while losing 14.

And really, that should be dispiriting.

But this teams shows up and fights, so much so that it takes the #4 team nationally with a tremendous center into overtime.

Fortunately, while Duke didn't fight as well as the Hokies did earlier, it did fight back in time to win.

And while Jahlil Okafor played brilliantly (30 points on 13-18 with nine rebounds), particularly coming off of a twisted ankle, Duke owes a lot of this win to Quinn Cook.

In the second half, Cook did the following things at the following times:
  • 11:47 - a jumper to cut the lead to four.
  • 11:23 - a three pointer to cut the lead to one.
  • 10:53 - an assist to Matt Jones for a three to put Duke up 59-57.
  • 9:23 - Another three to put Duke up by four.
  • 7:58 - Another three pointer to put Duke back up by one, 67-66.

In overtime, Cook had four points, all from the line, and two rebounds.

In terms of leadership, in terms of energy, in terms of playing hard without ever stopping, Cook is moving into rare territory, even at Duke.

How many guards at Duke have played much better than Cook has in ACC play this year?

Go down the list. Hurley? Okay. Amaker and Dawkins? Okay. Chris Duhon's senior year? Okay. Jason Williams? Okay. Jon Scheyer? For our money, yes, and Nolan Smith too.

It's not a long list and Cook is arguably even matching some of the elite.

He's having a stunning senior campaign.

In the end, Cook came through in a big way, and Okafor did as well. Matt Jones had his plays, as did Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones too, but the keys for Duke were clearly Cook and Okafor.

Virginia Tech's relatively inexperienced and not particularly aggressie big man Satchel Pierce, who's only getting 13 minutes or so a game and averaging less than three points and just 2.5 rpg, stepped up and had the game of his  young career against Duke's Okafor,  providing some defense and physicality and scoring eight points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots.

He was all the Hokies had inside, and he acquitted himself well. 

So did freshman Jalen Hudson, who scored 23.

Adam Smith added 15, Ahmed Hill 11 and Justin Bibbs 10.

For Duke, Justise Winslow's effort may have been somewhat overshadowed by those of Okafor and Cook, but he wasn't far behind.

Winslow finished with 15 points on 7-2 from the field, had rebounds and two steals.

Matt Jones got the start in Amile Jefferson's place to help Duke match up better against a shorter, faster team.

Someone once asked Abraham Lincoln how long the ideal soldier's legs should be. He told them that they should be long enough to reach the ground.

It was not an impressive win for Duke perhaps, but like Lincoln's soldier qualifying merely by having legs, the only thing that ultimately matters in a win is having more points than one's opponents.

Duke did that and so has a firmer grip on second place than it did before the game.

Duke could lose a game and still maintain second place for seeding purposes, given the huge win over 3rd place Notre Dame, which lost by 30 in Durham (you may remember that Cook played brilliant defense on Notre Dame's Jerian Grant in that one).

So while it may not have been a masterpiece of basketball, every win is beautiful. So it is with Duke's 25th of the season.