Turns out Brooklyn is a Hokie kind of town. Virginia Tech used its advantages in quickness and experience and a career-night from guard Hunter Cattoor to defeat Duke 82-67 Saturday night and capture the 2022 ACC Tournament.
In doing so VT joined 2017 Duke as the only teams to win four games en route to winning the title. After surviving a near-death experience in overtime against Clemson in their opener Tech defeated second-seeded Notre Dame, third-seeded North Carolina and one-seeded Duke.
They earned it.
It’s easy to say that Duke seemed out of sorts from the very beginning. But Tech had a lot to do with that. Tech shot better than Duke, rebounded better, handled the ball better and made big plays when they had to make them against a Duke team that just had no answers when the game was on the line.
“They’ve been like a well-oiled machine,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’re a team that you need two or three days of preparation for to put in your defensive game plan and it still might not work.”
Krzyzewski added that the game plan started with limiting 3s.
So much for that.
A couple of stats stand out. Tech out-rebounded Duke 37-26. And they had 18 assists, while a Duke team that consistently reverted to one-on-one play when things got tough could muster only nine assists on 24 made field goals.
The Devils and the Hokies exploded out of the blocks early. It was 14-12 Tech after four minutes.
Duke may have blown its best chance of winning shortly after that. For one of the few times in the game the Hokies actually went cold. Storm Murphy put Tech up 14-10. Tech then went almost six minutes without scoring. But after taking a 15-14 lead on a Jeremy Roach triple and adding a foul shot,, Duke had four empty possessions and the game stayed 16-14.
Then Catoor took over, scoring 11 points in less than four minutes.
“Hunter is a great player,” Trevor Keels acknowledged. “He really leads them. He’s a great shooter. He was running off a lot of down screens. Our communication was a little off. We ran through some of them but again he made some tough shots. That’s what big-time players do.”
Krzyzewski said that Cattoor had a “Clay Thompson night. How long did he have the ball to score 31 points? He moves so well. He moves as well without the ball as anyone in our conference.”
Then 6-9 Keve Aluma took over, scoring 11 points in the final 6:15 of the opening half.
“He’s a great player,” Keels said. “Very versatile pick-and-pop, he can do whatever. We played great defense on him early but he’s going to get going.”
Still, Duke had a chance to tie at intermission but A.J. Griffin missed an open 3 and Duke went into the locker room down 42-39.
Duke never got anything going in the final 20 minutes. Three-pointers rimmed out, foul shots were missed, loose balls were lost.
Duke never got closer than three. It’s hard to pinpoint one play. Maybe it was the Cattoor triple that made it 52-45. Or the Cattoor three-point play that made it 55-45. Or the Cattoor 3 that made it 70-60.
You get the drift.
Krzyzewski said he thought Duke’s “offense was good. We just didn’t hit shots. We couldn’t stop them. When you don’t hit shots it looks like you’re not running good offense. Even down 10 we had two 3s that were in and out and missed four free throws. I’ve not a problem with our offense, But we couldn’t stop them. That’s the ball game.”
He also said he thought his team was tired down the stretch. Moore cited poor communication on defense.
Krzyzewski also went out of his way to praise Storm Murphy (nine points, six assists) for his leadership and energy.
Cattoor hit 7 of 9 from beyond the arc on the way to that 31 points. Aluma had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Banchero led Duke with 20 points and five rebounds. But Duke was a woeful 4 for 20 from 3-point range, with Griffin 1 for 8.
“We’ve got to move on and learn from it,” Krzyzewski said. “Playing this game helps us because this is the caliber of team and execution that you’re going to have to beat in order to advance [in the NCAAs].”
He added that Duke had only practiced once since the Carolina game and he expected Duke could fix its defensive issues with some practice time.
But for now this is a Duke team going into March Madness off a great big downer.
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