Virginia Tech's Tyrone Garland celebrates with teammate Malcolm Delaney (23) and the Hokies at the end of Tech's 64-60 win over Duke at Cassell Coliseum. CHUCK LIDDY - email@example.com
BLACKSBURG, Va. – As Duke’s players exited the floor at Cassell Coliseum on Saturday night, Virginia Tech’s students were rushing on to celebrate one of the school’s biggest basketball wins ever.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had warned that the Blue Devils would be playing teams desperate for wins over the last few games of the regular season.
Top-ranked Duke led by five with 5 minutes, 20 seconds remaining, but Virginia Tech scored nine straight points and won 64-60. Terrell Bell hit a tying 3-pointer and then made two free throws with 4:19 left to give the Hokies the lead for good.
“We had a couple really good looks,” Krzyzewski said, “and we didn’t knock them down.”
Senior forward Kyle Singler led Duke with 20 points but missed three 3-point attempts in a period of 2:23 that could have stretched the Blue Devils’ lead and demoralized the Hokies.
Duke scored just five points over the final 6:10. With the Blue Devils trailing 63-60 and 12.7 seconds left, Krzyzewski diagrammed a play at a timeout to get Smith a drive on the right side of the floor with three 3-point shooters open on the other side.
But the Hokies cut off Smith, who passed back to a tightly defended Seth Curry. When Curry lost control of the ball, the Hokies recovered and were headed to the free throw line with 1.6 seconds remaining and the win in hand.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Singler said. “It was a great game. Over the last five minutes we didn’t make the necessary plays to win.”
The crowd at Virginia Tech was charged up for a game with much higher stakes for the Hokies than for Duke (26-3, 12-2 ACC). Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5) entered the game without a win against an opponent ranked in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index and was eager for a win that would get the attention of the committee that selects the NCAA tournament field.
“It was everything it was made out to be,” said Smith, who scored 18 points. “You saw it in their emotion after the game. They’re going to make the tournament now. That’s what everybody was saying coming into the game. This was their chance to put a stamp on making the NCAA tournament. And they did it.”
The Duke loss gave North Carolina (21-6, 11-2 ACC) a chance to tie the Blue Devils atop the ACC standings with a win over Maryland in a game that tips off at 7:45 p.m. today in Chapel Hill.
With Duke’s defense geared to overplay against No. 2 ACC scorer Malcolm Delaney (19.1 ppg before Saturday), Virginia Tech guard Erick Green and Jeff Allen had to make the most of their scoring opportunities.
They did just that as Delaney was held to 11 points on 4-for-15 from the field. Allen scored 18 points and Green scored 12, and Virginia Tech led by as many as seven points in the first half.
Early in the second half, though, the Blue Devils began to assert themselves defensively. Virginia Tech missed four straight field goal attempts and Delaney committed a charging foul during a period of 4:30 when the Hokies did not score.
Smith made a pull-up 16-footer and passed to Singler for his first 3-pointer in four games as Duke scored seven straight points to lead 51-45 with 11:10 remaining. But a rebound by Bell showed just how desperate the Hokies were.
Duke led by five and had Ryan Kelly in position to grab a defensive rebound when Bell ripped the ball out of Kelly’s hands. Moments later, Victor Davila scored on a tip dunk, touching off nine straight Virginia Tech points for a 59-55 lead.
“That’s what we didn’t want,” said Smith, his chin resting glumly on his left hand. “We know every time that we come onto the court, we’re every team’s biggest game. When it comes around this time, if you can put Duke on your winning resume, you have a chance of getting in. We know that. …We have to try to be the party spoiler to get wins. But they were tougher down the stretch.”