It doesn't get much better than this. Trailing by six in the game's final seven minutes, Virginia Tech used a 17-7 run to come back and knock off the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils 64-60 Saturday night in Cassell Coliseum. The win was Tech's 4th against team's ranked No. 1 and the third time in the last five years they've knocked off the top ranked team in the land.
The win strengthened Tech's chances at an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, as it improved to 9-5 in the ACC with two games to play. Duke lost for just the second time in conference play this season and was bounced from the No. 1 spot just one week after it reclaimed its' position atop the polls.
Playing with a passion not seen this year, the Hokies got out to a fast start leading 9-4, but couldn't take advantage of the cold-shooting Blue Devils. Duke responded by taking it's first lead of the game at 16-14 with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half. Facing a deficit for the first time in the contest, Tech countered with a 15-6 run to open their largest lead of the night at 29-22. The Devils would not go away, roaring back to get within two at halftime at 33-31.
After Duke scored on the opening possession of the second half to tie the game, the Hokies quickly grew the lead back to five before a Duke run put doubt into a victorious outcome for Tech fans. Trailing 42-37 with a little over 17 minutes to go, the Blue Devils went on a a lengthy 16-5 run over the next 9:35 to create their largest lead of the night at 53-47. Duke had multiple chances to extend that lead to double digits, but Kyle Singler uncharacteristically missed three consecutive three-pointers to keep the Hokies within striking distance.
Given an opportunity, the Hokies took advantage and outplayed Duke down the stretch. Not many times have I seen a team that had more willpower and fight than Duke in a closely-contested game, but Tech was determined not to let the opportunity go by the wayside.
Trailing by six, Jeff Allen nailed a baseline three-pointer to halve the lead, but Nolan Smith responded with a layup to push the lead back to five. Terrell Bell then missed a three, but set up the turning point in the game.
With 5:39 remaining, Smith was called for an offensive foul for pushing off on Malcolm Delaney. On the next possession, Victor Davila stuffed home a missed jumper to put Tech within three. After a Duke miss, Bell nailed a trey from the corner to tie the game up and then hit two free throws on the next possession to give VT a 57-55 lead with 4:19 to go.
Neither team could then hit from the field until Allen laid one in for a four-point lead with 2:39 remaining. After a Singler layup, the Hokies used great ball movement to get Delaney an open three, which he nailed to erase memories of his horrid shooting night and increase Tech's lead to five.
Tech had a chance to increase its' lead to three possessions, but Mason Plumlee stole a lazy Allen pass and slammed it home to make it a three-point game with 1:25 remaining. On the ensuing Tech possession, Erick Green missed a forced three-pointer and gave Duke the chance to tie, but Singler missed a three with 33 seconds to go, giving possession back to the Hokies.
However, Green missed both of the free throws and then committed a foul sending Smith to the line with 27 seconds to go. Smith would miss the front end of a 1-and-1, but Plumlee got the rebound and was fouled. He made the first to slice the lead to two, but missed the second and fouled Allen.
Allen made one-of-two, giving Duke another chance for the tie. After a Blue Devil timeout with 12.7 remaining, Smith was forced to pass to Seth Curry who was stripped of the ball with 1.6 seconds to go and subsequently fouled Allen, who made one free throw to give Tech the four-point win.
Allen was a monster for Tech, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds against the taller Blue Devils. His 15th double-double of the season was perhaps his finest as he willed his team to the upset victory. Delaney's clutch three helped cover up a tough shooting night for the senior on what he called the most important game of his career. He ended up with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Tech recorded no bench points once again, as Davila finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Bell and Green each added 12 points for the Hokies.
Duke was cold from outside, making just 4-of-20 three-pointers. Singler was off from deep, connecting on just 1-of-7 treys. He still managed to lead the Blue Devils with 22 points, but on just 6-of-19 shooting. Smith had his typical game, going 9-of-18 from the floor for 18 points.
The missing piece for Duke was Seth Curry, whose father, Dell, is arguably the best player to ever don the maroon and orange on the court. Seth played just 15 minutes, was 0-of-2 from the field, and fouled out of the game. Add on top of that a turnover in the final seconds and a "Who's your daddy?" chant and it was a bad night for the Liberty transfer.
The Hokies did an absolutely outstanding job on the boards against Duke. Normally dominated on the boards against taller teams, Tech outrebounded Duke 44-38, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. Tech rebounded 36 percent of their misses, while holding Duke to nine offensive rebounds, or 24 percent of their chances.
The win capped off what many will say is the best day in Virginia Tech basketball history. With College Gameday in attendance, the Cassell Guard showed up in full force in the morning to the tune of 3,197 screaming fans. Host Rece Davis was quoted as saying this Gameday was the loudest and most energetic in the show's seven years. Davis also said the Hokie fans had the most creative signs he's seen on the show.
When the game came around, the Hokie faithful were loud the entire time and, to steal from Coach Greenberg, gave a great informercial for not only Virginia Tech basketball, but Virginia Tech as a university. This win feels great now, and it's going to feel great for quite some time. Personally, I'll never forget the feeling as I rushed onto the court to celebrate the victory.
However, our team and fans should know that nothing is a given and Tech can't afford to give the selection committee any opportunity in the final two weeks to leave us out of the the tournament. That critical stretch being Tuesday at 9 p.m. against Boston College in what will be senior night for Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell, and Malcolm Delaney. The game will be televised on ESPNU.