For the second time in a week Duke dug itself a huge first-half hole. But unlike last Wednesday’s game against Boston College, Duke couldn’t dig itself all the way out. The result was a 74-67 Virginia Tech win, a loss that ended Duke’s three-game winning streak and dropped Duke to 3-1 in the ACC, 5-3 overall.
The Hokies moved to 4-1, 10-2.
Note that VT has played four more games than Duke and Mike Krzyzewski implicitly cited that difference.
“They know who they are. . . . . We’re still finding about our team. He knows who his team is. In the first half they really hit us hard. They played great defense, really strong, physical defense. They knocked us back.”
Indeed. It’s hard to overstate how bad Duke was for most of the first half. Virginia Tech took an 11-2 lead after only four minutes. Duke had two turnovers and two misses before hitting their first shot and by then it was already 7-0.
Jeremy Roach had both of those turnovers. He discussed his team’s slow start.
“There was no energy. We were playing lax. We were letting them come to us. We weren’t being the aggressor. We were just doing everything wrong. . . . Just playing for 40 minutes is the key.”
Duke never could make a sustained first-half surge in large part because Duke couldn’t get consistent stops.
“We gave them the opportunity to shoot a high percentage,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t pressure them the way we could. Offensively they were able to get run outs because of how weak we were. When you get those run-outs, your percentage goes up. . . . We were an accomplice to their good offense.”
A 12-0 Tech run gave the home-standing Hokies a 29-12 lead. The lead peaked at 36-18 with seven minutes left in the half. Duke stared a blow-out in the face and showed some signs of life, closing the half on a modest run, 16-10, capped by a Matt Hurt 3-pointer that made it 46-34 at intermission.
Still, a 12-point deficit on the road against a team with a win over Villanova on its resume is a tough climb.
Mike Krzyzewski’s half-time message?
“Keep the energy up,” Roach said. “We need energy. We need stops, we need stops. It was real simple, we need stops.”
“At halftime I thought we reacted great,” Krzyzewski said. “I thought we really well in the second half. More than that we competed. We played really good defense.”
Duke pressed effectively and Tech started missing shots. On the other end of the court Roach, Matt Hurt and D.J. Steward were putting the ball in the basket. Duke scored the first six points of the second half, closed to 54-52 on a Hurt jumper, 56-55 on a Hurt 3-pointer, 13:13 left.
And then the lid shut on the basket.
“We were in a position where our guys put us in a position to win,” Krzyzewski said “but we could not knock down a shot. . . . They were good looks. I don’t fault my guys. They were really good looks.”
After Hurt cut it to a point Duke missed seven straight field-goal attempts, nullifying some pretty good defense. In fact, Tech scored only 28 points after intermission. But Duke ended the game shooting 40 percent from the field and that’s not a winning recipe in a game like this.
“I think we learned a lot tonight about in just how hard an ACC, top-level game is,” Krzyzewski summed up. “You have to be there for 40 minutes and that’s a learning experience.”
Other than shooting, the teams were basically even in every meaningful category. Tech outrebounded Duke 34-33 and had 10 turnovers to Duke’s 12. Duke had three more steals and each team had five blocks. But one team made exactly half of its shots from the field and that team wasn’t Duke.
Three players scored all but 11 of Duke’s points. Roach had 22, Hurt 20 (with 11 rebounds) and Steward 14. But the rest of the team hit 5-of-17.
Jalen Johnson played four minutes, scoring two points, hopefully shaking off some rust from his injury-induced absence.
Tyrece Radford led Tech with 18 points and 12 rebounds. And he’s 6-2. Krzyzewski said Radford was the best player on the floor and singled out his intensity. Wofford transfer Kove Aluma added 17 points and seven rebounds.
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