Staff photo by Chuck Liddy
DURHAM — No matter how the ACC season ends, Duke can make one claim that UNC can't — the Blue Devils won their conference opener.
Duke started ACC play with a 69-44 home win over Virginia Tech on Sunday night, tipping off minutes after Boston College stunned the Tar Heels 85-78 in Chapel Hill.
A vintage Duke defensive effort, holding the Hokies to just 13 points in the second half, and 19 points from Kyle Singler, made sure the Blue Devils didn't follow the Heels into the loss column.
Matching 14-2 runs — one in each half — gave the Devils a relatively comfortable win in what has been a competitive series since the Hokies joined the ACC (now 5-2 in Duke's favor).
Virginia Tech won the last meeting between the two at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Jan. 2007, beating then-No. 5 Duke 69-67 in overtime. The Hokies couldn't repeat the upset of the No. 5 team in the country.
Duke responded to Virginia Tech's biggest threat — scoring the first four points of the second half to make it 39-35 — by rattling off 14 of the next 16 points.
By the time Duke made it 64-42 at the 6:10 mark, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg had no choice but to call timeout, prompting Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to greet his team on the floor with a round of applause.
The Devils' man defense held A.D. Vassallo, Tech's leading scorer averaging 19 points per game, to seven points and forced the Hokies to shoot 36.7 percent from the floor.
The second-half Duke swarm was how the game started. While Singler, Gerald Henderson (15 points) and Jon Scheyer (11 points) were hitting 3-pointers, dunks and running hook shots to build up the early advantage, Virginia Tech went the game's first 6 minutes 30 seconds without a field goal and started 1 of 12 from the floor.
Duke's lead ballooned to 32-19 on a vicious dunk by Henderson, on a pretty high-low feed from Singler (seven assists), at the 5:40 mark in the first half.
Abandoning a halfcourt trap for a man defense, the athletic Hokies kept Duke from closing the half with a flourish. Delaney popped off six of his eight first-half points to cut the margin to 39-31 at the break.
The Hokies scored the first four points of the second half but never got closer. Duke held them to just 1 of 9 from 3-point range for the game.