The Hokies got the signature win that everyone has been looking for over the last four years, and all but punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 64-60 win over #1 duke at the Cassell. Tech used an extremely balanced effort to take down the devils. All five Hokie starters reached double-digits in points, including double-doubles from Jeff Allen and Victor Davila. The Hokies are now 3-2 against #1 teams under Coach Seth Greenberg, and this was Tech’s fourth win all-time against a #1 (Tech is 3-1 against #1 teams in the Cassell overall).
Things looked bleak for the Hokies as the game got to the later stages of the second half. Tech trailed 55-50 with 6:11 to go, but used a 9-0 run to jump out to a 59-55 lead with 2:39 left. duke never got closer than two after that point, though things got interesting at the end. Up 62-57 with 1:30 to go and with the ball, a lazy pass led to a Mason Plumlee dunk. And in the final minute, Tech was awful from the foul line, as they were all game. Tech won despite their free throw woes. The Hokies hit just 8/19 (42%), well below their 72% average, and they had been the #1 FT% team in conference games. But just enough free throws made and cold shooting from behind the arc for duke gave Virginia Tech the win.
After shooting 50% in the first half, Tech really struggled in the second half, hitting just 30% of their shots. The Hokies didn’t score for four and a half minutes in the middle of the second half, allowing duke to go on a 7-0 run and take a 51-45 lead. The two teams traded baskets, and the devils led 53-47 with 6:30 to go when an Allen 3-pointer closed the gap to three.
After a Nolan Smith jumper with 6:13 to go made it 55-50 (Smith’s 18th and final points of the night), it was hustle that got the Hokies back in it. Green missed a 3-pointer, but Bell skied across the paint to grab an offensive rebound. He fed the ball to Allen, who missed a jumper, but Davila slammed home the miss for the play of the night. Then Bell drained a 3-pointer with 4:42 to go the game was even. Tech had trailed for more than 10 minutes straight at that point.
Two Bell free throws with 4:19 to go put Tech back in the lead, and a Jeff Allen layup made it 59-55 with 2:39 to go. After a Singler layup, it was time for Malcolm Delaney to dust off his cape and hit a huge 3-pointer, giving VT a 62-57 lead with two minutes to go.
The Hokies were just 2/6 from the foul line in the final minute, but duke could not hit a jumpshot and the Hokies pulled it out. The fans stormed the court and Coach Greenberg hugged his daughters on the floor, seemingly in tears. Yep, everyone gave everything they had tonight — fans, coaches, and most of all, players. And now they should get want they want, barring a collapse in the next two weeks — a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Tech won thanks to several things:
- Davila’s hands – Victor was catching passes he hasn’t caught all year, and he was converting inside. He made a nice catch and finish to get the Hokies on the board and that set the tone.
- My ball – Jeff Allen dominated the glass, as did the Hokies. Tech grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 11 second-chance points.
- Balance – The Hokies had it, duke didn’t. Smith and Singler combined for 40 of duke’s 60 points. Meanwhile, all five starters from VT scored between 11 and 18 points.
- Ball security – duke committed just 5 turnovers on the night, but keep in mind they had just ONE turnover with 10 minutes to go in the game. They committed 4 turnovers down the stretch, leading to Hokie transition opportunities (VT had 15 fastbreak points to just 4 by duke). And Tech committed just 6 turnovers on the night, including just 2 in the second half.
- All In – Simply put, VT wanted this game. The whole team, especially the seniors wanted Tuesday to be their final home game. They didn’t want to have to come back to the Cassell for an NIT game. And when the chips were down, they sealed the deal. They outhustled the blue devils to 50/50 rebounds and kept possessions alive.
Jeff Allen was the man of the night for the Hokies, as he’s been for the last month. He racked up 18 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double in nine games. He even knocked down two huge 3-pointers, just his fourth and fifth of the season. Jeff also made some terrific passes inside that led to easy buckets for Davila when duke doubled Jeff.
Victor Davila also had a night. He scored 11 points and collected 10 rebounds for just his second career double-double and first ever in ACC play. But he was just 1/6 from the foul line, highlighting an awful team effort from the stripe.
The star of the second half for the Hokies was Terrell Bell. He scored five points early in the second half to help the Hokies build a 42-37 lead with 17:19 to go, had a huge offensive rebound that led to the Hokies getting within three, trailing 55-52 with 4:42 to go, and then scored five straight to put the Hokies ahead 57-55. His 3-pointer tied the game at 55 with 4:42 to go. Bell had 10 points in the second half.
Erick Green tallied 12 points but 10 of those were in the first half. He had three ‘and-1′ opportunities tonight but converted just one. After a month stretch where he hit 32/33 from the foul line, he has since fallen into a horrible slump and was just 1/5 from the line tonight.
Notice I haven’t mentioned somebody… Malcolm Delaney, in what he called the biggest game of his life, struggled all night thanks to a suffocating duke defense. But Malcolm answered the call when it mattered most, hitting a gigantic 3-pointer with 2:02 to go, putting the Hokies up 62-57. He finished with just 11 points on 4/15 shooting (1/6 from behind the arc), but he hit the big shot when the Hokies needed it.
The much ballyhooed return of Seth Curry to the Cassell was a non-factor. Seth picked up two quick fouls in the first half, and two more early in the second half, and finished with a big goose egg, fouling out at the end. Nolan Smith, the ACC’s Player of the Year this year, had a solid game with 18 points on 9/18 from the floor (slightly below his average). Kyle Singler had 22 for duke, but most of his damage was from the line. He was just 6/19 from the floor but 9/10 from the line.
duke really struggled from deep. They finished 4/20 from 3-point range, going 2/10 in both halves. The blue devils shot just 40% for the game thanks to an all out defensive effort for the Hokies.
Random duke thought: When have you seen Coach K call all five timeouts in a game? He makes a point of having his guys play through rough stretches, not giving the opponent the satisfaction of letting them know they have the devils on the run. But Coach K burned all five, and just one was at the end.
Overall, what a great day for Virginia Tech basketball. Tech had a great turnout for ESPN College Gameday, inspiring Rece Davis to call it one of the loudest, if not the loudest he had been to. But then when the real show started, the Hokies persevered and found a way to win the big game, what they hadn’t been able to do the last 3+ seasons. Now let’s pack the Cassell on Tuesday night for the next big game against boston college. Tuesday is SENIOR NIGHT! Let’s send Malcolm, Jeff, Terrell, and Paul out right.
Halftime – VT 33, duke 31 – First half recap…
If I told you Delaney would have just 4 points at the half and duke would have 0 turnovers, yet VT was leading, you’d have told me I was certifiably insane! But that’s just what happened. The Hokies shot 50% from the field in the first half and led by as many as seven. Tech jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead at the first media timeout and kept the lead most of the first half.
duke briefly took the lead at 16-14 with under 9-minutes to go in the first half, but an 8-2 run by the Hokies gave them a 29-22 lead. The run was thanks in large part to fast break points. Tech had 8 in the first half.