updated 7:45 p.m.
GREENSBORO – Duke guard Nolan Smith said his injured toe felt “brand new” when he woke up Saturday morning.
His game looked as good as ever Saturday afternoon.
Smith, the ACC player of the year, shrugged off a bruise on the second toe of his left foot to lead Duke to a 77-63 ACC semifinal win over Virginia Tech at the Greensboro Coliseum.
He played all but the final 34 seconds, scoring 27 points and handing out six assists in a dominating performance.
“An injury is not going to stop me at this time of the year,” Smith said. “We only have a couple more games to go. I’m a senior and I just want to help my team win games.”
Smith will have a chance to help No. 2 seed Duke (29-4) win another big one at 1 p.m. today. The Blue Devils will meet No. 1 seed North Carolina (26-6) and have a chance to win their third straight tournament and their ninth in the last 12.
No. 6 seed Virginia Tech (21-11) was playing its third game in three days after a dramatic, 52-51 defeat of Florida State late Friday night that improved the Hokies’ chances of reaching the NCAA tournament.
“We’re hoping for the best,” said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg. “We’re proud of our body of work, but certain things are out of our control.”
Malcolm Delaney scored 19 points and Erick Green added 17 for Virginia Tech, but Duke held the Hokies to 36.8 percent from the field and 2-for-16 from 3-point range. Forward Jeff Allen, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds in Virginia Tech’s 64-60 win over Duke two weeks earlier, was held to two points and seven rebounds before fouling out.
Virginia Tech had just three assists on 21 field goals.
“We played well to kind of make them more of a one-on-one team against us,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “They didn’t have many assists, and I thought it was because of some really good team defense that we were playing.”
Senior Kyle Singler added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Duke, and sophomore guard Seth Curry scored 10. But everybody’s eyes were on Smith, before and during the game.
Although Smith seemed to be walking with an ever-so-slight limp, it didn’t affect his play. He injured the toe Friday night in the ACC quarterfinal win over Maryland and missed the final 6 minutes, 48 seconds.
X-rays on the toe showed that it wasn’t broken, and Smith felt better Saturday. He was listed as questionable, but coasted through pregame warm-ups before shooting 8-for-16 from the field.
Midway through the first half, Smith scored on a reverse layup, drove to scoop another layup over the rim and hit a 3-pointer in a span of 56 seconds to stretch Duke’s lead to 23-16. Smith scored 16 first-half points as the Blue Devils led 39-28 at halftime and never let Virginia Tech get closer than six points in the second half.
“The main thing is that there’s nothing broken,” Krzyzewski said. “Once we knew that it was not broken, we felt it would be OK, and then this morning he felt really good.”
Smith played even better as he helped the Blue Devils post their eighth straight ACC tournament win over three years.
Photo: Duke's Nolan Smith (2) shoots under pressure from Virginia Tech's Manny Atkins (25) and Erick Green (11). CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org