Virginia Tech returned from their three-game trip in the Maui Invitational to host a nationally televised ACC showdown. The Hokies welcomed in #10 Duke - whom Tech beat at home last season, but fell to in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The Blue Devils were fresh off a road victory over Michigan State, giving the two sides something in common this year.
The night kicked off just like that impressive Michigan State upset, as the Hokies controlled the first half in front of a sold out Cassell Coliseum. However, in the second half Coach K adjusted to what worked for Tech on the night, and shut the game down over the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Duke went on to win 77-63, pushing the Hokies’ record down to 6-3 on the season.
1 - The two sides of the young Hokies side on display
The game itself was an exact replica of the season thus far. A strong start, controlling the situation - before the offense goes cold and facing off against talented opposition. VT was clearly up for the game and fueled on by a packed Cassell Coliseum. In the first half the Hokies shot 53% from the floor, scoring 41 points against a strong Duke defense. They were in control at halftime, with it feeling quite similar to the opening night in Hawaii.
Then in the second half Coach K reminded everyone why he has the titles, wins - and a surplus of five-star recruits. The Blue Devils went smaller to halt the Hokies’ advantage, consistently pressed VT, putting them under pressure and forcing turnovers, and leaning on their young talent to stretch Tech’s defense. Duke put up just one extra point in the second half than they did in the first, but their defense turned the match. Much like the recent run of games, the Hokies faded down the stretch.
2 - If the threes are off, watch out
Dayton highlighted a weakness for the Hokies, but last night clarified it. If Tech isn’t able to consistently hit threes throughout the night, they will need their defense to save the game. In the first half VT went 4 for 13 from behind the arc - and that was the good half. In the second half, Tech only hit one of seven attempts - 14%. 25% on the night as a whole.
Tech won points in the paint, surprisingly, with Duke having the edge in points off of turnovers and second chances points. But in none of the those categories was there a massive margin that fully tipped the scale. The one that did? Bench points. Duke’s bench outscored the Hokies 35 to 11. With Landers Nolley, Nahiem Alleyne, and Hunter Cattoor combining for 13 points, Tech needed surprise points from an unlikely source.
3 - Tyrece Radford will develop into a key player in the years to come
P.J. Horne had a season best 15 points, hitting three of Tech’s five three pointers, but Radford was the surprise of the game. So far this season he has been overshadowed by fellow freshmen (and redshirts) Nolley, Alleyne, and Cattoor. Often Tyrece has had breakout moments and plays in a supporting role, but on Friday he made his first case to be a regular starter.
Radford went 6-for-7 against Duke, for 12 points, adding seven rebounds. Playing 24 minutes, he picked up just one foul against an aggressive Blue Devils attack. Tyrece’s hustle, rebounding ability, and shot blocking range in just his first nine collegiate games indicate he could develop into a quality ACC player under Mike Young.
The Hokies return to action on Wednesday night as they welcome in Chattanooga, looking to get their first win in four games.