With Justin Robinson out, many doubted Virginia Tech's ability to take down Duke even if the Blue Devils didn't have Zion Williamson. However, the Hokies proved that doubt quickly wrong led by clutch performances from Kerry Blackshear and Ahmed Hill that have the Hokies right back in the hunt for a top 4 seed.
No. 20 Virginia Tech upset No. 3 Duke 77-72 to improve to 21-6 on the season including 11-5 in ACC play while Duke fell to 24-4 overall including 12-3 in ACC play. With the result, Virginia Tech has now won their most ACC games under Buzz Williams while the Blue Devils suffered their first road loss of the regular season. The win is also the third-straight time that the Hokies have beat Duke in Cassell Coliseum.
Turnovers proved critical as the Hokies only had 6 turnovers compared to 12 for Duke leading to a 13-6 points off turnover advantage for the Hokies. Additionally, the Hokies were able to draw lots of fouls and did well at the line going 23-29 compared to 15-19 for the Blue Devils. The Hokies also held their own once again with a 7-7 split in offensive rebounds. Both teams were held under 35% from three-point range as Duke's issues from three-point range proved costly in this game.
Kerry Blackshear was the brightest star on a court with three potential lottery picks as the redshirt junior big man dominated the post with 23 points and 10 rebounds including 5 offensive rebounds on 7-11 shooting from the field and 9-11 shooting from the free-throw line. Down the stretch, Blackshear was the best player on the floor including a critical offensive rebound that forced the Blue Devils to start fouling and a pair of made free throws inside the final 12 seconds to ice the game.
Ahmed Hill had arguably his best ACC performance in his career with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 5-10 shooting from the field. Hill was critical early as he had 9 points in the first 4.5 minutes, helping the Hokies claim an early lead that they would rarely relinquish outside of a couple of sporadic moments.
After having only 4 points in the first half, RJ Barrett exploded in the second half on his way to having 21 points while Cam Reddish had 17 points of his own and Marques Bolden was a big surprise with 14 points. However, those 3 weren't enough for a Virginia Tech team that was able to be effective on the glass, dominate the turnover margin, and take advantage of Duke's mistakes.
Both teams got off to fast offensive starts with Virginia Tech claiming a 14-10 lead with 15:41 to go in the first half led by 9 points from Ahmed Hill who was electric on the offensive end right off the bat. The offense did slow down with the Hokies suffering a 2-0 deficit for a stretch of just over a minute when Duke didn't have RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish on the floor with the Blue Devils cutting the Hokies lead to 16-14. The game continued to become the low-scoring game most expected with Virginia Tech taking a 23-19 lead at second to last media timeout of the first half.
Duke followed that with a 5-0 run including RJ Barrett's first points of the night to claim a 24-23 lead over the Hokies. Virginia Tech reclaimed the lead soon after using a 9-2 run to take a 34-28 lead late in the first half. Duke responded turning a flagrant foul against Ty Outlaw into a four-point possession for Marques Bolden to cut the lead to 34-32 before the Hokies took a 37-34 lead into halftime.
Virginia Tech had only 4 turnovers in the first half compared to 7 for Duke while also taking greater advantage of those opportunities with a significant 10-2 advantage in points off turnover. Virginia Tech also held their own on the glass with an even 3-3 split in offensive rebounds while shooting 50% from the field compared to 46.2% for Duke. The Hokies and Blue Devils both struggled from deep as each team went 4-12 from three-point range.
Ahmed Hill led the way for the Hokies with 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists including 9 points in the first 4.5 minutes of the first half all coming on 3-5 shooting. Meanwhile, Kerry Blackshear also played well with 10 points and 3 rebounds on 4-6 shooting while no other Hokie had more than 5. Cam Reddish was the star for Duke with 12 points on 5-7 shooting while RJ Barrett struggled with only 4 points on 1-7 shooting.
After a back-and-forth start to the half, Duke used a 6-0 run to claim a 42-41 lead that was short lived with Ahmed Hill making a 3 right after, launching a 7-1 run for the Hokies before Duke cut the lead back down to 49-47 with 11:53 to go in the second half. Virginia Tech and Duke went back-and-forth for a stretch with Duke eventually tying the game at 59 with VT calling a timeout with 7:28 to go. However, the Hokies were already in the double bonus at this point while Duke was still not even in the bonus.
Virginia Tech jumped to a 63-59 lead out of the timeout thanks to an open three from Wabissa Bede and a free throw make from Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The Hokies then used a three-point play from Kerry Blackshear that came moments after RJ Barrett missed a pair of free throws to give the crowd free bacon and help the Hokies take a 66-61 lead. Blackshear had another big moment getting a Duke defender up in the air and going by him before slamming it home to take a 68-61 lead. Duke was able to get the lead down to 70-66 with the Blue Devils calling a timeout with 3:16 to go after a three from Alex O'Connell.
Duke quickly kept their momentum going using the three from O'Connell to launch a 7-0 run to tie the game at 70 and draw VT timeout with 1:39 to go. Virginia Tech responded with a big three from Ty Outlaw to take a 73-70 lead inside 90 seconds. Then, Kerry Blackshear had a huge offensive rebound inside the final 30 seconds with Nickeil Alexander-Walker making a pair of free throws to give VT a 75-70 lead with 19.5 seconds to go. Duke responded with a quick bucket from Tre Jones, but Kerry Blackshear made a pair of free throws to seal the 77-72 victory.
Photo Credit: Bobby Murray
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