With renewed defensive vigor and team play the Blue Devils show the critics tsat Duke does begin with “D”. Duke was able to match, surpass and eventually deflate the spirit of Hokies. After the Hokies tied the ball game at 21 Duke was able to get to the rim trip after trip and by the time Virginia Tech could catch their collective breaths the score was 34-23. Duke shared the ball on offense, was crisp and deliberate, something that has only showed up in spurts.
There were changes in the lineup with Coach K opting to start Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston for defensive purposes, and neither disappointed. Duke played as if they had been reading the tales of their own defensive demise and finally took it seriously.Â Duke played with much more intensity and energy, Duke was quick to the ball, strong with the ball and did not back down from a physical and desperate Virgina Tech. With their season on the bubble already in the month of January, Tech was in need of a win. In a hostile environment Duke held its ground, jawing and posturing with Hokies.
Duke was paced by Austin Rivers who scored 18 and hit 4 out of 6 from distance. The stat that jumps out the most for the freshman is the 5 assists to 2 turnovers, Rivers was smart with the ball and picked his spots and played a much better floor game compared to last months outings.
Ryan Kelly exploited mismatches and was able to shoot 50% from the field, scoring 15 points hitting from distance and drives to the bucket.
Seth Curry despite the win still finds himself in the midst of a shooting slump. Curry did score 11 points but was 2 out of 7 from the field.
Notable for Duke was Mason Plumlee hitting 2 of 2 from the free throw line, hitting both confidently. Duke also won the rebounding battle as well and shot 8 of 18 (44%) from 3.
Also notable was the decision by the coaching staff to disallow social media, and have the team bus to Virginia Tech for the game, a symbol that this team is to earn all it gets and that history is no promise of present or future. The message was clearly received. Duke fans were treated to a team that not only emoted and embraced a defensive mindset but valued the ball and seemed to play with a spark that seemed lacking for weeks now.