It was a drowsy crowd that greeted the Devils and the Hokies on Saturday afternoon. Maybe it was the hour, maybe it was a we’ve-stared-at-2-straight-days-of-terrible-basketball hangover, or maybe it was that everyone left had spent whatever energy they had cheering for or against the Tar Holes in their exciting comeback over Clemson. Whatever the case, the at- times quiet Greensboro Coliseum was witness to a solid, if unspectacular Duke victory making one wonder if the crowd was responding to the game or the game to the crowd.
In any case, the game started as a largely even and reasonably well-played affair and was knotted at 14 at the 10 minute mark. Duke got 4 of it’s first 8 from the unlikely source of Miles Plumlee who has picked an excellent time to play his best basketball of the year. VT, as is their want, got buckets from all 5 starters to keep pace. On the down side, Mason Plumlee picked up 2 offensive fouls and had to take an early seat on the bench. Over the ensuing 3 minutes, Duke went on a 12-2 run, getting 10 straight from Nolan Smith, who returned in spectacular style after suffering a toe injury against Maryland that seemed certain to sideline him for at least a game. The teams played evenly over the final 7 minutes of the half, as the Hokies were able to get to the foul line with regularity against Duke’s D. Duke got a clutch 3 from Seth Curry, who played much better than in his last outing against VT, to go into the half with a 39-28 lead. Potentially problematically, all of Duke’s big men went to the locker room with 2 fouls apiece.
The second half was a choppy ( and chippy) foul plagued affair.The Devils committed 7 fouls in the first 10 minutes, including Mason’s 3rd and 4th. Not to be outdone, Virginia Tech was whistled for 6, which included Jeff Allen getting T’d up for throwing an elbow and he went to the bench with his 4th foul. Duke was able to extend its lead to 57-42 over this period, using 6 points from Kyle (who had a sluggish offensive first half), good shooting ( 6-12) and solid defense. The Hokies went to a Zone on Defense which frustrated Duke initially and allowed them to cut the lead down to 10, but Nolan found Mason on 2 straight plays for lob-dunks to push the lead back to 61-47 with 6 minutes left. The final 6 minutes were essentially a foul parade ( including an ABSURD technical called on Andre Dawkins for a flagrant elbow as he went up for a layup. I still can’t understand how this is even possible…). Duke hit all 9 free throw attempts, and the game was over.
This was a classic “workmanlike” victory Duke; not great, but good enough to get the job done They shot well from the floor ( 47%) and extremely well from the line (22-26) and got solid contributions from everyone that played significant minutes. On the down side, they shot 5-18, committed 22 fouls, and turned the ball over 15 times.
Duke is now an astonishing 14-50 from 3 in their last 3 games.(Over his last 8 games Kyle is 2-25). Despite a renewed commitment to scoring in other ways, Duke and Kyle will have to find something remotely resembling their touch from range in order to have a shot at beating the Heels tomorrow.