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Duke’s Defense Strangles Hokies In The Second Half As Devils Win 76-65

Duke asserts itself after halftime and Virginia Tech ran out of answers

Virginia Tech v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 22: A.J. Griffin #21 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts as he dunks against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 22, 2021 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Duke used a 27-7 run to overcome an eight-point second-half deficit and defeat Virginia Tech 76-65 Wednesday night. The win came in Duke’s ACC opener and runs their overall record to 11-1. The Hokies dropped to 8-5 overall, 0-2 in the ACC.

Duke tried to knock out the visitors early. Duke scored on its first five possessions—including three triples—and jumped to a 13-4 lead.

But Tech starts two grad students, a redshirt senior and two juniors and they don’t scare easily. They settled down, hit some 3s and got the ball inside to Keve Aluma, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection, who played like one.

VT caught up at 13-13, took their first lead at 22-21 and expanded it to 36-32 at halftime.

Tech hit 4 of 10 from beyond the arc in the opening half, outrebounded Duke 20-16 and turned it over only twice.

And Aluma had 17 points and six rebounds.

Maybe Duke was fortunate to only be down by four.

Mike Krzyzewski said he never yelled at his team, not even at the half.

“We were playing well. We turned it over a couple of times and then we missed some free throws. I told the guys at halftime “this game is even. We should be up by four points.’ Part of becoming a really good team is learning that in games like this you’ve got to do the little things or you’re punished by a good team.”

It got worse before it got better. Tech outscored Duke 6-2 out of the gate and I suspect the words”upset alert” were floating around the internet.

Krzyzewski said the second-half lineup with Mark Williams and Banchero “just didn’t go. We got down by eight and put Paolo on him [Aluma] and Paolo had a great second half, not a good second half, both offensively and defensively.”

Williams sat down early in the second half and didn’t return. He played only three minutes after intermission. Theo John didn’t play at all. A.J. Griffin came off the bench and played as the second big.

Banchero sparked the comeback, a driving layup, a second-chance follow-up in the lane and a 3-pointer and it was 42-41. The Banchero explosion took all of 2:11.

“Paolo was there in the second half and we should go to him,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t have to call plays for him, just put him in different positions.”

“Goodness gracious,” Tech coach Mike Young said of Banchero. “That was a pretty impressive performance for that young man.”

“I wanted to come out and have a strong second half,” Banchero said “get to the basket more, establish myself inside. I definitely picked it up in the second half. I wanted to attack.”

On the other end Duke was shutting down Tech’s offense. VT had two turnovers in the first half, eight in the second half. They made four 3-pointers in the first half, one in the second half.

“We got spread out a little bit,” Young said. “Duke played appreciably better than we did in the second half. We need to shoot the ball better from 3 (5-19). We didn’t shoot it great and I think that was a real point of emphasis for Duke.”

A Trevor Keels-layup put Duke back on top at 43-42, then Wendell Moore went coast-to-coast off a defensive rebound, then Griffin dunked in traffic and it was 47-42, an 11-0 Duke run. The Blue Devils held the Hokies scoreless for five-and-a-half minutes.

After Hunter Cattoor’s 3 made it 47-45, Duke went on another run, 14-4 to get some serious separation at 63-49.

Tech hung tough but never got closer than seven points after that.

Krzyzewski closed it out with Banchero, Griffin, Keels, Roach and Moore playing most of the second half, three freshman and a sophomore, with limited substitutions, trusting his freshmen to grind it out against a deep, veteran team.

“At every timeout I told them ‘you guys are playing well. You’re playing great. Hang in there. This is what it’s all about. I was more a jockey on a big-time horse and they responded and they were their toughest in the second half.”

Banchero led Duke with 23 points and eight rebounds, 17 of those points in the second half. Moore had a typical Moore game, 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, with some of his 3 turnovers a result of fatigue; he played 39:23.

But A.J. Griffin’s second-half was beyond huge. Young said Tech knew all about Griffin but they could hardly have expected him to play over 15 minutes in the second half and score 13 total points, with four rebounds, all while guarding a bigger man, usually Justyn Mutts.

“We knew it was going to be a fight,” Griffin said. “We knew if we continued to play hard, we would come out on top. That second gear that came in, that passion, having my teammates feeding off me, we were all playing off each other. We were having fun.”

Trevor Keels, the third freshman added 13 points and four rebounds, two foul shots, then a steal and layup sewing up the win late.

Aluma led everyone with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Duke shot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half and made all 10 of its foul shots. Duke outrebounded Tech 16 to 11 in the second half.

“They were really ready to play,” Krzyzewski said of his team. “They got knocked back and then they stayed ready and they were at their toughest in the second half. I’m really happy about this game. Our guys showed a lot tonight.”


Player Of The Game vs. Virginia Tech

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Wendell Moore
    (46 votes)
  • 43%
    Paolo Banchero
    (200 votes)
  • 0%
    Mark Williams
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeremy Roach
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (3 votes)
  • 43%
    AJ Griffin
    (199 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Theo John
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Bates Jones
    (2 votes)
456 votes total Vote Now