Duke's Mason Plumlee disappears behind the ball as he slams home a dunk against Virginia Tech. CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 10:41 p.m.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Quinn Cook got into the lane to the right of the Virginia Tech basket midway through the second half and found a Hokies’ defender between him and the basket.
Mason Plumlee stood behind that defender and gave a quick point to the ceiling of Cassell Coliseum. Cook lofted the ball over the rim to Plumlee, who finished for an emphatic alley-oop. With that, Duke was up 17 points against the Hokies and in a similar situation to Saturday, when the Blue Devils took their foot off the gas late against St. John’s.
There was no such let-up Thursday.
No. 7 Duke (19-3, 6-1) took it to Virginia Tech (12-10, 1-6) until the final buzzer sounded, posting a convincing 75-60 victory that erased much of the lingering sourness from Saturday’s win.
“I think the big thing was for 40 minutes everybody fought,” junior Ryan Kelly said. “All they cared about was winning. Things aren’t perfect – we made mistakes – but if we continue to do that, things are going to be good.”
Austin Rivers led the Blue Devils with 18 points while Kelly finished with 15.
In light of the disappointing half against the Red Storm, Duke stressed the importance of team unity over the last four days. The players have decided not to post anything on social media for the rest of the season, and they bussed up to Blacksburg in order to spend some time together.
“We have nine games left now in the season,” Rivers said. “You look at the seniors like Miles (Plumlee). A month from now, he’ll never play in Cameron again. That kind of bothers me because I want to play hard for him. We’re going to fight for each other, especially the older guys.”
There were also changes to the starting lineup as Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton started for Kelly and Seth Curry.
Once the game started, if Duke employed the same approach as it did Saturday, there were a couple of moments when Virginia Tech could have wiggled its way back into the final 10 minutes.
After Plumlee’s alley-oop, the Blue Devils scored on their next possession when Kelly drove and converted a one-handed attempt in the lane. Kelly then made a deep 3-pointer when Duke got the ball again, giving the Blue Devils a 62-40 lead.
The Blue Devils’ offense bogged down for a couple of possessions after that, giving the Virginia Tech crowd some hope.
Plumlee steadied Duke with an important defensive play.
With Virginia Tech within 15, the Hokies took advantage of a Rivers turnover and sped ahead on a fast-break opportunity. First, Tyler Thornton impeded Robert Brown’s path to the basket, and then Plumlee sprinted back and managed to stuff the layup attempt.
“I thought his hustle was one of the great plays of the game,” Krzyzewski said of Plumlee. “What Tyler did, too. Tyler kind of stopped him a little bit, and then Mason made his play. Because if they hit that, you never know. It’s a momentum play. It’s a big-time play.”
Duke knows from Saturday that if you allow opponents to get momentum, they may crawl their way back into the game.
But the Hokies didn’t get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
"I'm very pleased with our team," Krzyzewski said.