Virginia Tech pulled off perhaps the biggest road win in school history on Saturday, knocking off #5 Duke in storied Cameron Indoor Stadium 69-67 in overtime. Virginia Tech is just the third unranked team to beat Duke in Cameron in their last 115 games against unranked foes. The Hokies improve to 11-4 overall and 2-0 in the ACC with the win. The Blue Devils drop to 13-2 and 0-1 in ACC play.
The Blue Devils had a chance to tie or win the game at the end of overtime, but Greg Paulus’ wild three-point attempt from the wing was blocked out of bounds by Deron Washington, who got the better of Paulus all day. With three minutes left in regulation, Washington jumped clear over top of Paulus for a layup on a fast break, putting Tech up 62-59.
Virginia Tech’s senior backcourt of Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell got the better of Duke all day. It was Dowdell who hit numerous big shots in the second half, and Gordon who nailed a floater in the lane with 31 seconds left in overtime to give the Hokies the lead for good.
Dowdell finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range. He also had five steals. Jamon Gordon had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and also pulled down 6 rebounds.
Deron Washington and Coleman Collins added 11 points each for the Hokies, who beat their first ranked opponent since upsetting Duke 67-65 in Cassell Coliseum in February 2005.
Virginia Tech won this game because of turnover margin. The Hokies turned the ball over just seven times, while they were the recipient of 22 Blue Devil turnovers. Starting Duke point guard Greg Paulus finished with no points, one assist and six turnovers, as he was stifled by Virginia Tech’s senior backcourt all day long.
Virginia Tech has a recent history of starting slowly in games, but that was not the case against Duke. The Hokies jumped out to an early 8-0 lead at the 17:59 mark of the first half.
The Blue Devils finally got going with a three-pointer by Jon Scheyer to cut the lead to 8-3, and the game was close for the remainder of the first half. Duke tied the game at 14 on a layup by Lance Thomas with 12:28 left in the half, but the Hokies regained the lead at the 11:39 mark on a layup by Deron Washington.
The Hokies held the lead for the remainder of the half, gradually extending it to 38-31 on two Jamon Gordon free throws with 23 seconds remaining. Duke got a gift at the end of the half, as Scheyer was fouled by Deron Washington on a three-point attempt. Scheyer hit two of three free throws, and the Hokies went into halftime with a 38-33 lead.
The Hokies extended their lead early in the second half, leading by nine points on two occasions. Zabian Dowdell’s jumper in the lane gave Tech a 44-35 lead with 17:37 remaining in the game.
But as you would expect, Duke rallied. DeMarcus Nelson scored seven consecutive points to cut the lead to 44-42 with 15:31 remaining, and the Hokies had to use a timeout to stop the bleeding.
Tech quickly went up by five after Jamon Gordon trained a three-pointer to put the Hokies up 49-44 at the 14:35 mark. But again, the Blue Devils made a run, scoring seven straight points to take a 51-49 lead with 11:37 left. The game went back and forth for the rest of the half, and suddenly the Hokies found themselves in crunch time, where they generally do not perform well.
After two clutch Zabian Dowdell free throws with 29 seconds left, the Hokies found themselves up 64-61. But that lead didn’t last, as DeMarcus Nelson, who scored 22 points for Duke, nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 64.
Nelson’s three-pointer fell through the net with approximately 17.9 seconds remaining, stopping the clock. Tech inbounded the ball to Jamon Gordon, who took several steps up the court, but the officials quickly stopped play because the clock did not restart on the inbounds pass.
The officials took a full five seconds off the clock, and gave the Hokies the ball in the backcourt. Tech advanced up the court, but couldn’t get off a good shot. Zabian Dowdell’s jumper from the wing did not fall, and the game went to overtime.
With both teams fatigued from such a close game, overtime wasn’t pretty. Josh McRoberts put Duke up 66-64 on the Blue Devils’ first possession, but that was their only field goal of the five minute overtime period. Deron Washington answered for the Hokies with two free throws to tie the game at 66 with 4:30 remaining.
The game was scoreless for over three-minutes, when McRoberts hit one of two free throw attempts with 1:27 remaining to give Duke a 67-66 lead. With Tech’s offense not executing, it looked as if the Hokies would suffer another heartbreaking loss in Durham.
But with 31 seconds remaining, Jamon Gordon drove the lane and hit a high-arching floater to give Tech a 68-67 lead. On the other end, the Blue Devils’ David McClure missed a jumper with 10 seconds remaining, and a jump ball was called as players for both teams fought for the rebound. The possession arrow pointed Tech’s way, and they got the ball in to A.D. Vassallo, who was fouled with 7.5 seconds remaining.
Vassallo hit the first free throw but missed the second, and the Hokies led 69-67. Duke rebounded and Greg Paulus quickly advanced up the court, but he was cutoff by Deron Washington just outside the three-point line on the left wing. With time winding down, Paulus was forced to launch a three-pointer, which Washington easily blocked off the court, giving the Hokies their first ever win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The win marks Tech’s first win over a top five team since they beat #2 Memphis State 76-72 in Blacksburg in 1986. The last time the Hokies beat a top five team on the road came against Kentucky 80-77 in 1962. In other words, this one is one to remember.
Virginia Tech will head back to the state of North Carolina to take on UNC-Greensboro in the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30.