Duke lost a hard-fought game to Virginia Tech Monday night, 78-75. We can absolutely live with Duke’s effort, especially from Kyle Filopowski, who was brilliant, but Dariq Whitehead left early in the second half with an injury that did not look good.
Whitehead jumped for a ball and grabbed his calf in the air and immediately headed to the bench. He was assisted to the locker room and later returned, on crutches, to watch the end.
Duke started out brilliantly, running to a 7-0 lead before Virginia Tech heated up. The Hokies shot out to a 29-19 lead and Duke looked shaky. However, the Blue Devils cut the lead to 45-38 at the half.
And early in the second half, Duke stormed the rest of the way back - and then Whitehead jumped for a loose ball against Hokie Justyn Mutts, only to grab his calf before he came down. Speculation is rife on the injury but let’s wait and see what the official word is. It’s an awful thing to see though. Whitehead had 10 points in the first half and seemed to be emerging as a reliable scorer for the Blue Devils. And he would have helped at the end of the game, too.
Filipowski, as noted, really stepped up. The big freshman finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds. And while he has shot threes all season, he hasn’t shot them like he did Monday night, hitting 4-8. The problem with having your best rebounder miss threes is that he’s not likely to get the rebounds. That’s not really a problem if he’s hitting them though.
What we really did like about this game was that Duke fought. They lost Whitehead and they still fought. They got killed on threes in the first half and defended the bomb much better in the second half.
Jeremy Roach, who is still not in ideal game shape, hit some big baskets and played hard throughout. Tyrese Proctor didn’t shoot well overall but drove well, ran the team well and got the ball to Filipowski in position to score.
The bottom line remains the bottom line though. Roach missed the front end of a one-on-one with 2:17 left and Duke down three. Filipowski split on a pair with 1:30 left and the Blue Devils down three.
Even so, Proctor tied the game 75-75 on a three with :41 to go. Then came a weird twist.
Michael Collins hit a shot in the lane...and then he hit Filipowski.
Right in the neck.
Was it incidental? Just celebratory?
Well maybe. But the blow staggered Filipowski and Virginia Tech unquestionably gained an advantage with :04 left. Duke could have brought the ball up court before the Hokie defense was organized.
We can see the argument for it being unintentional and our policy has always been to not blame the officials for anything unless it’s the final play or, in this case, close enough. Fans, including us, love to rip the refs for perceived mistakes but the reality is it’s a complex and fast moving job to be a ref and most of us have no clue. However, when the game hinges on a call or, in this case, non-call, it stinks.
We expect the conference will review the non-call.
After that, Ryan Young had the inbounds with :03 left and was unguarded. Hunter Cattoor stole the pass and that was that.
It’s never fun to lose but it’s less painful when you can see growth and we saw some in this one. People will point to Virginia Tech’s losing streak but that’s a sucker’s play. This is a talented, well-coached team that lost a key player for a few weeks. And it’s not like they were getting blown out. Syracuse and Virginia won by 10 each but the other games were 1-4 point losses. This one was a three-point win.
It’s a tough loss but there’s a lot to build on. It’ll be easier to do that if Whitehead isn’t out long-term, but there’s nothing anyone can do about that except hope for the best.
Next play: on to Georgia Tech Saturday.
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Player Of The Game vs. Virginia Tech