Blue Devils Kick Hokies While They’re Down, Duke Wins 80-67

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#2 Duke jumped ahead of Virginia Tech early, kept their foot on Tech’s throat through most of the second half, and coasted to a relatively easy 80-67 victory in Cassell Coliseum on Thursday night. The Blue Devils avenged the 67-65 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg last season and sent VT further into the ACC cellar. Tech is now 10-9 overall and 0-6 in conference play. Duke remains in first place in the ACC with an 6-0 conference mark and 18-1 overall record.

With the loss, Virginia Tech has now dropped five consecutive games and six of their last seven. The Hokies had no answer for the combination of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick. Williams finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. He shot 9-of-14 from the field. Redick didn’t have a great night shooting. He hit 7-of-17 shots from the field and just 2-of-7 from three-point range. He did hit 8-of-9 free throw attempts on his way to a 24-point performance.

Duke was also aided by the return of guard DeMarcus Nelson. Nelson was not expected to play on Thursday, but he played 16 minutes, scored seven points and had two assists without committing a turnover. He is Duke’s best perimeter defender, and his return makes the Blue Devils a deeper and better team.

Virginia Tech guard Zabian Dowdell scored 21 points for the second consecutive game. The junior guard hit 10-of-18 shots from the field and dished out four assists in 37 minutes of action. Dowdell was limited from three-point range, only attempting one shot from long range. The Hokies only took eight three-pointers as a team, and hit three of them.

The game came down to which team shot better, and it turned out to be the Blue Devils. Duke hit 49.2% of their shots from the field, while the Hokies shot just 42.9%. Both teams got a roughly equal amount of free throws, but Duke made their attempts count, hitting 17-of-22 shots from the charity strike. Virginia Tech hit just 10-of-22 free throw attempts.

The Hokies protected the basketball well, committing just nine turnovers while forcing 16. Virginia Tech was outrebounded by Duke 42-34, but that was mostly because the Blue Devils had the higher shooting percentage. Tech grabbed 12 offensive rebounds to Duke’s 10.

Virginia Tech scored on their first possession of the game when Jamon Gordon found Coleman Collins wide open in the lane for an easy dunk. Unfortunately for the Hokies, it would be the only time they led during the game. Duke quickly ran off eight straight points to take an 8-2 lead, and they gradually extended their lead through the remainder of the first half.

The Hokies got their offense rolling at one point in the first half but could never come up with a defensive stop to cut into the Blue Devil lead. Coleman Collins hit a layup with 11:20 left in the half to cut the lead to 21-15, but he was answered by two free throws from Redick. Collins then hit a jumper to make the score 23-17, and Zabian Dowdell scored six consecutive points for the Hokies between the 10:21 and 8:22 marks. But Shelden Williams kept answering Dowdell with shots of his own, scoring seven points on three consecutive possessions between the 10:36 and 9:18 marks. After DeMarcus Nelson hit a layup with 8:30 remaining in the half, Duke was up 32-21.

Nelson then hit Duke’s next two shots, a jumper and a three-pointer, and the Blue Devils led 37-23. Wynton Witherspoon answered with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 11 with 6:04 left, but Lee Melchionni hit his own three to put Duke back on top by 14. Duke scored just three points the final 5:43 of the half, but the Hokies could not capitalize, scoring just four points of their own during the stretch.

It was more of the same to start the second half. Tech scored just three points in the first 5:43 of the second half and Duke used this Hokie drought to extend their lead to 56-35. Spanning the end of the first half through the early stages of the second half, Tech scored just seven points. The Hokies played well the rest of the way, but they could never overcome that stretch of poor offensive play. The cut the lead to 12 on several occasions late in the game, but the comeback attempt fell well short.

The end of the game was marred by an incident in which Deron Washington drove to the basket and was fouled by Melchionni with less than two minutes left. As Washington got up off the floor, he kicked Melchionni a glancing blow in the face. The referees huddled, watched a TV replay, and decided to eject Washington from the game. Washington met with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski in the tunnel after the game and apologized to both him and Melchionni. Krzyzewski was gracious in his post-game comments, saying, “Things happen during a game” and advocating that everyone move on from the incident.

The Hokies will take the court again in two days when they travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest. Tech will do so without Coleman Collins, who left right after the game to be with his ailing father in Atlanta, GA. It’s also possible the Hokies could play without Washington, depending upon what disciplinary action is taken by Virginia Tech or the ACC, if any.

Tip-off for the Wake Forest game is scheduled for 3 pm and the game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot/Raycom.

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