Virginia Tech Can’t Keep Pace Late In Game In Loss At No. 2 Duke

Keve Aluma had a game-high 25 points at Duke on Wednesday. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

With 17:55 to play in the second half in a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium, a Keve Aluma layup gave Virginia Tech a 42-34 lead over No. 2 Duke. To that point, the Hokies were three-for-three to open the half, had 40% from the floor and held freshman phenom Paolo Banchero to three-of-nine shooting.

Tech was in control. The Blue Devils, led by Wendell Moore at that moment, lacked a presence inside. On the other hand, the Hokies, having just shot 40% from behind the arc in the first half, seemed to understand that an opportunity was on their hands.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the switch flipped for Duke and the lightbulb came on. Mike Krzyzewski’s team, trailing by eight, strung possessions together. Over a five-minute span, the Blue Devils went on a 13-0 run on six-of-eight made baskets. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech missed seven straight shots, including five three-pointers.

Duke retook the lead and never trailed Virginia Tech again on its way to a 76-65 win in Durham.

Banchero, who had a 7-0 solo run to kickstart the team’s hot stretch of shooting, finally turned it on. He finished with 23 points, 17 of which he scored in the second half. That gave the Blue Devils their swagger back, and they led by at least seven points for the final ten minutes of the contest.

“Paolo had a great second half, not a good second half,” Krzyzewski said afterwards.

“[They] threw him the damn ball and got out of the way,” Virginia Tech’s Mike Young said of what changed for Banchero in the second half. “He was better on the offensive end of the floor.”

Banchero paved the way for the comeback, though Duke was really good defensively. Active, disrupting passing lanes, causing havoc. That contributed to the Hokies’ eight second half turnovers after giving the ball away just twice in the first 20 minutes.

Despite Keve Aluma (25 points) and Justyn Mutts (20) combining for 45 of Tech’s 65 points, Banchero & Co. wore Tech down. The Blue Devils were deeper, more physical and really made life difficult. They combined stops with made baskets at the other end and did what Coach K teams do best: Push the pace.

Tech was very disciplined defensively in both halves, but for a stretch there, Duke got everything it wanted. Banchero was the catalyst.

By the time the Hokies blinked, Duke had taken back the lead and was up five. Hunter Cattoor hit a three out of a timeout that gave Tech its first basket in five minutes, but then the Blue Devils went on another run. A 9-0 stretch over 2:25 pushed the margin to 14, and besides a spurt of six straight points from VT around the 5:30-mark, the game was out of reach.

“I thought we continued to get exactly what we wanted offensively,” Young said. “Up four at the under-16. We got spread out a little bit and that can happen and then you’re getting dribbled under with Wendell [Moore Jr.] and [Trevor] Keels and Jeremy [Roach] and [Paulo] Banchero was… goodness gracious… throw the ball down to that guy. That was a pretty impressive performance from that young man.

“Wish we could have had a better outcome. … Duke played appreciably better than we did in the second half and the final score is what it is.”

Coach K’s team showed why it is No. 2 in the country. It’s a deep squad, evident by AJ Griffin’s 13 points off the bench.

Virginia Tech, which by most metrics is considered a top-four team in the conference, looked like one. It went toe-to-toe with Duke for 20-to-30 minutes and led at halftime in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Indeed, the final result was not a favorable one, but the Hokies showed promise. 

The Hokies are 0-2 in the ACC after Wednesday night’s loss. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

Now, when will that turn into an ACC win? It’s the first time in Mike Young’s three seasons that the team has started 0-2 in league play. Virginia Tech seems prepared for this conference gauntlet, but there are so many chances at a high-quality win. At Duke was the first, and at North Carolina on Dec. 29 is the second. If Clemson hangs around, the Tigers may still be a Quadrant 1 opportunity in the season finale in March.

But the Hokies need an ACC win badly. The team has, at times, played better than its 8-5 record indicates, but the challenging schedule that Young set up paired with playing three of the top teams in the conference right off the bat doesn’t really help.

The Tar Heels, in Hubert Davis’s inaugural year, are 9-3 (1-0 ACC). They play an up-tempo style similar to Duke, rebound well and are a good three-point shooting team. Virginia Tech has another tough game on its hands, and a victory in the league in Chapel Hill can go a long way. Falling to 0-3 in the ACC, on the other hand, could really set back any NCAA Tournament hopes the Hokies might have.

“I think we did a lot of things well and made a lot of mistakes,” Hokies forward Justyn Mutts said, “so there will definitely be a lot of good film to look at for us to improve on for next game.

“They’re the second-ranked team in the country. For us to come in here and compete at a high level for a good duration of the game, I feel as though we definitely took a step in the right direction, we just need to keep marching in that direction and not just stop because we almost beat Duke. That isn’t good enough.”

Box Score: Link

19 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I was pretty happy with the effort overall and feel better about the team now that we hung with them most of the game. We just went cold shooting. We are still the 2nd highest rated Net team in the ACC at 29. But, I think we need 20 wins to have a shot at the NCAA and that mean 12-6 in our remaining games and that’s a tall order.

  2. A game of two different halves. Team needs to remain positive. Announcers were very complimentary…and Bilas calls it the way he sees it (in my opinion).

  3. We don’t match up well in the paint and we haven’t had a penetrating 1 since J Rob. If we can’t have 1, we must have the other and we don’t.

  4. Loved the first half, hated the second half. Duke got more physical and Duke just seemed bigger and tougher. Then I thought how many top 100 player did Duke recruit on the present team and how many top 100 player had Tech been able to recruit on the present team. Betcha it’s not even close. Duke is bigger, stronger and has players with more innate talent. CMY has good players that need more work to be great players.

    I still think CMY coaches a great team and I love to see these guys play. They were close with Dayton, Xavier and Duke. But close is no cigar. They need W’s. I do feel that Tech has a good chance against unc next Wednesday. So ger ‘er done.

    GO HOKIES!!!

  5. This team is really coming along. I see Pedulla’s minutes increasing and we will get better for it. We may have dug a hole too deep to get out of considering the ACC this season but that does not diminish what CMY has accomplished. I think we take the Cheat’s.

  6. Physical play like DUKE did in 2nd half, we will see more and more of that all year. Alleyne needs to get into the gym and shot, shot, shot… he has been a non-factor the last few weeks.

    UNC & DUKE a best in ACC, but other teams are very good too, including us..

    GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Alleyne needs to sit and watch Maddox most of the game. Maddox longer and quicker and has a better shot.

      1. Agreed, Alleyne is better defender but is a streaky, unreliable scorer. I said at the beginning of the year “if Alleyne has a good year, the team will” bc he has consistently been the x-factor. I’d like to see some stats of how many games we have won if he scores 15+ points.

    2. Not to pile on Alleyne, but I’m wondering if he might have some of court issues going on. Maybe he got his heart broken by some young lady or something like that. I remember when I was young and in college, things like that happened and they could be devastating, even though we older folks may laugh at such things now.

  7. I don’t see how this team can hold up if the key starters are going to log 35 minutes or more per game. Surely it’s past time for Pedulla to get serious minutes, and for Maddox to get into the 20s on a regular basis. And wasn’t N’Guessan ready for a breakout year? He was tearing it up in practice, but needs to play more confidently under the bright lights so he can play more meaningful minutes and sub for Keve and Mutts.


    Great effort until K figured out how to set the matchups. Refs certainly weren’t going to call fouls on Duke “bumping” us as Bila’s called all of the Duke chest to chest contact.

  9. It was nice in theory to have a tough OOC schedule but looks like it’s going to bite us in the rear ultimately. We simply aren’t talented enough to beat the likes of Duke and UNC and there isn’t enough quality ACC teams to boost our NET beating middle or bottom of the pack ACC teams. Believe we are going to be on the outside looking in come tournament time unfortunately.

    1. Not sure I would put UNC in the same category as Duke, but it is not the time to give up on this team. We need a good win to get on a roll.

      1. I agree, just not sure where the good win will come from because I doubt it will be @ UNC…plus we’re off to a dead last start in the ACC as the only 0-2 team right now. Tough to be optimistic at the moment but not giving up yet!

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