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Duke entered Cameron clearly on tired legs after the Florida State game Thursday, and it showed.  The Devils had problems finishing plays: On several plays Austin Rivers left layups short, bigs weren’t as quick off of the floor, and the jump shots were not there for the Devils.  What the Devils did bring to the table was toughness.  Duke, despite its mistakes (25% shooting from 3 point range and under 40% overall), Duke was able to rely on its defense.  Duke was able to get stops and rebounds when it mattered most.

With only a two point lead at the half, it was clear that Duke was not going to be able to muster a substantial run to get separation from a scrappy Virginia Tech team.  What Duke did do was battle on the boards and on defense.  Miles Plumlee led the Devils with 15 rebounds, and Mason Plumlee who, despite offensive difficulties, managed to pull down 9 rebounds.

Duke struggled mightily from the 3 point line, going 6 for 24, but managed to utilize Austin Rivers and Seth Curry driving in the lane.  Rivers led Duke in scoring with 23, despite only shooting 5 of 12 shooting.  Rivers was able to drive strong on the Tech guards and draw contact, getting to the line for 17 attempts of which he made 11.  Seth Curry went for 19 in the game and came through with tough drives in the lane instead of settling for the outside shot.

Unlike home games earlier in the year, Duke was able get stops and score the ball and eke out the win.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s wins like these that give hope for tournament success.  It’s going to be bench players like Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston and hopefully Mike Gbinijie that carry Duke to post season wins.  If Duke can weave those players into the rotation with no significant drop off, Dukes margin for error becomes a little wider.

Quotes: Duke 70, VT 65

Senior Miles Plumlee:

“Playing here for four years now, you just know what winning plays are and you know when you need to make them.  I’m just trying to be aggressive, and we’ve just got to keep the momentum going.”

“You’re fighting human nature in a game like this, coming off a physical, big-time win on the road [Thursday night at Florida State] with about a day to prepare.  It’s just tough but our team’s will to win was great today and we finally came out on top.”

On having only one game in Cameron remaining in his Duke career:
“I’ve been counting them down for a while now.  It’s crazy but at this point I just might as well leave everything I’ve got on the floor.”

Junior Ryan Kelly:

“We played pretty good defense.  We missed some open looks that we normally hit, around the basket too, and they hit some really tough shots down the stretch.  When you do that, you put yourself in a position to win.  We really had a will to win and came through.”

On the effects of fatigue:
“That’s part of the game.  It’s like a tournament – the NCAA Tournament or the ACC Tournament.  You have to turn around quick and be ready to play right away.  That’s human nature a little bit when you get a huge win on Thursday night and then you come early Saturday.  But the ability to pull it out in the end was huge for us.  You’ve got to take some time to rest.  With this early game, you get a long afternoon and then tomorrow to rest and then get ready to go for Wake Forest.”

On the play of Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee
“They were huge rebounding the ball.  And then, Miles, those two free throws were huge.  For a guy to step up and make those free throws, that’s really a big deal.”

On the play of Seth Curry and Austin Rivers in the second half:
“We know they can score the basketball and we expect them to.  And our offense is going well when they’re scoring the basketball in a variety of ways, whether it be getting to the basket or hitting shots, and they certainly did that in the second half.”

On what Coach K said to the team in the locker room after the game:
“It was just that we continue to show him that we have a true will to win and an ability at the end of a game to make the big plays to win.”

Freshman Austin Rivers:

“Guys are going to get rest tonight.  Everybody told each other that tonight everybody needs to lay low, get some rest, and tomorrow get some rest as well, just because we have a big week ahead of us and a lot of guys’ legs are short.  You could see it on the free throws I missed.  They were all short on the front of the rim.  They all felt good and I thought they were all going in.  But with your legs, you can’t do anything about it, so I just kept shooting them.  And guys kept shooting their shots.”

“We want to play really well to the point where we don’t have to try to close it out [late in the second half or overtime].  It’d be nice to win by 20 and then be able to sit, but Virginia Tech is a great basketball team.  That’s a team that you’re not going to do that with.  You’re not going to blow out Virginia Tech.  They’re well-coached and they have a lot of good players.  We knew that this game was going to be very tough.  This is kind of one of those schedule games where you’re worried about that one because you’re just coming off a win.  I think we did a good job of staying focused throughout the game.  They threw a lot of punches at us, and they hit a lot of big shots, but we stayed focused and were able to get the win.”

What I would like to see:

More emphasis on scoring the ball in the post, Duke guards can extend Duke’s season and its legs by feeding Mason and Miles Plumlee.  Both have shown the ability to score the ball but also to find the open man in inside out situations. Making Duke a more versatile animal on offense could mean the difference between a post season fizzle and a trip to the elite 8 or beyond.