The Virginia Tech Hokies hosted the No. 5 Blue Devils, hoping to right the wrongs they committed in Durham two weeks ago. Whether it was the home crowd or the game plan, this one was much more of a dogfight. Midway through the first half, it did not seem like a game that would be very close, as Duke got hot from three and took a 29-14 lead. It was a mirror image of what happened at Cameron Indoor, except this time the Hokies responded with an 11-0 run of their own.
There was a scary moment in the first half where Justin Robinson was running on a fast break but came up limping on his way back down the floor with an ankle injury. He tested that ankle after getting it taped up, but clearly was not right. He had to exit the game for the remainder of the half, but in second half warmups felt well enough to continue playing.
Basketball is a game of runs, and that saying came to fruition in the second half. Duke opened the half with an 8-5 run, prompting a Buzz Williams timeout. Virginia Tech eventually cut the lead to 48-47 with 10:04 left in the game, but the Blue Devils responded with an 8-2 spurt which appeared to be a dagger run.
The Hokies’ defense was not what it needed to be in Durham, but it was everything it needed to be tonight. Duke shot an inefficient 8-of-28 from three and 40.7 percent overall. Marvin Bagley III, who recently returned from a knee injury, was supposed to be unstoppable in the post tonight. For the most part, however, he was held in check due to a Herculean effort by Devin Wilson finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. In the last 7:02, Duke had zero made field goals and scored just five points. However, the Hokies still had to overcome a 60-51 deficit with 5:50 left.
Chris Clarke’s effort for the first 38 minutes was not his best. But in the last two minutes, he (literally) won the game for Virginia Tech. Clarke finished off a dunk in the paint off a great Justin Robinson dime and then tipped in a Nickeil Alexander-Walker shot with 4.1 seconds left, which was eerily reminiscent of Ty Outlaw’s buzzer beater to tie the game against Virginia last season.
And reminiscent to that game, the students stormed the court after the buzzer sounded in the Hokies’ final home game of the season.
There are no doubts now; Virginia Tech is dancing on Selection Sunday. With three wins over Top 15 opponents, the Hokies are safely in the field without having to worry too much about Saturday’s result at Miami. Tech has now beaten each team above them in the ACC standings and ends with a winning record in conference play both at home and on the road.
This was my last game as a student in Cassell, and the crowd was everything I hoped it would be and more. For all the fans in attendance (and the players), thank you for making this game memorable.