Just about every ACC game Duke has played at Cameron Indoor Stadium has gone down to the wire, and Saturday was no different as the Blue Devils needed overtime to tame Virginia Tech 70-65.
Here are three final thoughts on Duke’s win:
1. Duke finds a way – again
Trailing in the final minutes against a team that barely has a .500 record, the Blue Devils’ performance against Virginia Tech shows why just about anything seems possible for the team once the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Duke (25-4, 12-2) lost in the opening weekend.
Nor would it be a surprise if the Blue Devils reached the Final Four or won the national championship.
Even if Duke doesn’t always rack up style points with its victories, it enters the final week of the regular season tied with North Carolina for first in the ACC standings. In the most important measure of a team’s success, the Blue Devils are greater than the sum of their individual parts.
When analyzing Saturday’s game, it is also important to keep in mind that the Blue Devils got back to Durham early Friday morning from beating Florida State in Tallahassee. By the time Duke outlasted Virginia Tech over 45 minutes, the team was physically spent.
“We won a heck of a game,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I am very proud of our team. … This team has a really good will to win. You have some shortcomings, which all teams do. At the end of the day, they have a will to win.”
2. Andre Dawkins’ inconsistencies continue to vex
The Duke junior had a sensational first half against Florida State, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 18 points. Without his contributions, the Blue Devils likely don’t beat the Seminoles.
Two days later, Dawkins’ contributions were minimal against Virginia Tech. He missed all three of his 3-pointers and finished with zero points and three turnovers in 10 minutes. At one point in the first half, Dawkins didn’t hustle after a loose ball and was pulled for the better part of 10 minutes.
“Thank goodness he played at Florida State,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Andre’s been the reason we’ve won some big ballgames, so hopefully he can follow that up at Wake Forest on Tuesday night.”
When Dawkins is hitting his shots, he seems like he could be the piece that puts the Blue Devils over the top.
Then come efforts like Saturday’s.
3. Mason Plumlee doesn’t start
For the first time this season, Mason Plumlee began a game on the bench, which now means that no Duke player has started every game this year.
Plumlee came off the bench and had seven points and nine rebounds. The junior hasn’t had his most productive stretch recently, only getting into double figures once in his last seven games. In the two games before Saturday, Plumlee had averaged two points and four rebounds, struggling with foul trouble in both.
Mason's older, Miles, has picked up some of the slack in recent games, but the Blue Devils will hope Mason can re-assert himself on the offensive end.