PHOTO (Duke Athletics): Jeremy Roach drives on Virginia Tech’s Wabissa Bede.
By TOM SHANAHAN
Duke demonstrated it can overcome a double-digit first half deficit, rallying from 16 points down a week ago to beat Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But Boston College isn’t Virginia Tech. And the road in the ACC is different.
Duke managed to close an 18-point first-half deficit to 11 by intermission and trailed by only one one point on Matthew Hurt’s three-pointer with 13:12 to play. But Virginia Tech isn’t Boston College. And Duke in 2020-21 isn’t the Duke of national titles or national and conference players of the year.
The No. 20-ranked Hokies (10-2, 4-1 ACC) regrouped and held off Duke (5-3, 3-1 ACC) with a 74-67 victory Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg.
“We learned a lot tonight on how hard an ACC top-level game is,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a virtual media session. “You have to be in the game for 40 minutes and that is a learning experience. We really haven’t been in a game like that in conference.
“They are good and congratulations to them. The kid (Tyrece) Radford was the best player on the court. He had a double-double, his intensity and how hard he plays really helps their team immensely. They have other great players, but tonight, he was their key guy.”
Radford, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Baton Rouge, La., finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead three players in double figures. Keve Aluma added 17 and backup guard Jalen Cone 14. Cone (5-10, 165), a sophomore from Walkertown, N.C., hit a three-point field goal with 8:37 to play to bump its lead back to seven points, 64-57, with 8:37 to play.
Duke’s shooting turned cold at that point.
“They are really good,” Krzyzewski said, praising second-year Virginia Tech coach Mike Young’s roster. “Mike’s team knows who they are, their substitution patterns were great. They aren’t the only team ahead of us in that regard, where we are still finding out about our team.
“In the first half they really hit us hard. They played great defense — really strong, physical, and tough. It knocked us back. We have not played in an ACC game like that. At halftime, we reacted great, and I thought we played very well in the second half. More than that, we competed, we played really outstanding defense. They had 28 points in the second half, we had opportunities. We were in a position where our guys came back to put us in a position to win and we could not knock down a shot.”
Hurt finished with another double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Jeremy Roach led the Blue Devils with 22 and freshman guard D.J. Steward added 14, but four other teammates scored a combined 11 points: freshman Jaemyn Brakefiled 4, sophomore Wendell Moore 4, freshman Jalen Johnson 2 and senior Jordan Goldwire 1.
Johnson returned from a foot injury that sidelined him but played only four minutes. He missed the last three games, but with canceled and postponed dates, he hadn’t played since Dec. 8. Krzyzewski said practice the next week – Duke is off until traveling to Pitt for a game Jan. 9 at the Peterson Events Center — is needed for him to regain his footing.
Goldwire didn’t hit a field goal but added six assists and four steals. He entered the game leading the conference with 2.7 steals a game.
“We knew that Jalen could play, although he has only practiced once,” Coach K said. “I put him in early to see where that would go, he’s not yet ready, for tonight’s game at least. Hopefully, in a week he will be ready for our next game.”
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