The Hokies gave it all they had, but fell to #4 Duke 91-86 in Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night. Tech dropped to 10-18 overall and 2-13 in the ACC with the loss, while the Blue Devils improved to 25-3 overall and 12-3 in league play.
Justin Bibbs tied the game at 77 with 49 seconds left in regulation on a jumper out of a timeout on a well-designed play by Buzz Williams, and later the Hokies got the ball back for the final shot. Another well-designed play by Williams got Jalen Hudson isolated on Justise Winslow, and Hudson took Winslow to the goal. Hudson missed the shot, though he was arguably fouled on the arm on the play (see the replay in the video below), and the game went to overtime.
In the final five minutes, Duke was able to claim the win. An Ahmed Hill three-pointer put the Hokies up 80-79 with 3:50 left, but two free throws by future #1 pick Jahlil Okafor put the Blue Devils up for good with 3:29 remaining.
Before those dramatic last moments in regulation and overtime, the Hokies stood toe-to-toe with a probable #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Duke jumped out to a 15-4 lead, but the Hokies came roaring back and eventually took a 39-37 lead heading into halftime.
In the final 20 minutes, Tech led by as many as eight points, but the game was back and forth for most of the half, with both teams taking and losing the lead. Duke led the game on eight different occasions, while the Hokies had seven leads. There were three ties.
Jalen Hudson, after playing just one minute against NC State because of poor practices, dominated the Blue Devils. The freshman wing scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting, and he consistently beat Duke defenders off the dribble to finish around the basket. He also had six rebounds, and even had a big block on Okafor under the basket.
“As I have said before, he is the most talented guy on our roster, but he doesn’t have the work ethic on a consistent basis that he has to have,” Buzz Williams said when asked about Hudson’s up and down play. “He is incredibly intelligent and he understands that, and understanding it is half of it, but the discipline of doing right every day is hard.”
Four other players scored in double figures…
Adam Smith: 15 points
Ahmed Hill: 11 points
Justin Bibbs: 10 points
Devin Wilson: 10 points
Wilson also tied his career-high in assists with 11. His 11 assists is a VT record for an ACC game. (Ignore the part of the video interview where I tell Wilson that he tied the VT record held by Bimbo Coles with 12 assists. I was wrong.)
Buzz Williams went toe-to-toe with ACC legend Mike Krzyzewski, constantly drawing up successful scoring plays out of timeouts. The Hokies went 31-of-58 (53.4%) from the field, 12-of-22 (54.5%) from three-point range, and 12-of-15 (80%) from the free throw line.
“Everything we tried, they had a counter to,” Coach K said after the game. “They are well schooled in everything that they do. Obviously he’s an outstanding coach and we knew their kids would be unbelievably ready to play. We feel fortunate to have won…”
Ultimately, the same old problem bit the Hokies in the end. They simply aren’t big or physical enough to deal with ACC post players. Jahlil Okafor had a career-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting, and he also pulled down seven offensive rebounds. The Blue Devils had 19 second chance points, though the Hokies countered with 15 of their own.
“Despite our record I think our team has continued to improve,” Williams said. “But it hasn’t been good enough.”
The Hokies return to action on Saturday when they travel to Charlottesville to take on #2 UVA. Tipoff is scheduled for 4pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network.