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Virginia Tech edges Duke in top-25 showdown

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“We didn’t have our best start, but I knew we would figure it out,” Virginia Tech Coach Mike Young said. “I was pleased with their patience, their poise and togetherness. They continued to share, and I do think that is the mark of a team that’s been there and done it and knows what it takes to get out games like this with a win.”

Tyrece Radford led Virginia Tech (10-2, 4-1) with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and added a game-high 12 rebounds for his first double-double this season. He also had five assists.

Keve Aluma added 17 points and seven rebounds for the Hokies; he contributed a highlight-reel defensive play in the closing minutes that helped seal the victory. The forward leaped to block a shot by Duke’s Jeremy Roach (Paul VI) while keeping the ball inbounds at the baseline.

Moments later, Justyn Mutts dunked to give Virginia Tech a 73-64 lead with 1:02 to play. The emphatic basket was part of a 6-0 run after the Blue Devils had drawn within 68-64 with 2:34 remaining.

Duke
also had closed within 56-55 with 13:12 remaining, but the Hokies countered with Aluma — a transfer from Wofford, where Young coached before arriving in Blacksburg last season — scoring the next five points in a row.

“I saw a level of poise,” Young said. “I didn’t want to call timeout when Duke (5-3, 3-1) took off on us in the second half. Part of that was by design. I wanted to see us figure it out and fight through it. I didn’t want to burn a timeout there. I thought our shot selection was good. I thought that Duke made some difficult shots.”

Matthew Hurt, the leading scorer in the ACC, had 20 points, making 4 of 8 tries from three-point range, and Roach finished with a game-high 22 for Duke, which was saddled with its first conference loss while playing with a diminished roster and without an assistant coach because of an illness not related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic nonetheless has affected Duke significantly, with the Blue Devils having played just seven games entering Tuesday. They have had five games canceled or postponed because of virus-related issues in the opponent’s locker room.

Mike Krzyzewski was coaching in his second game since exiting quarantine Saturday after having had close contact with a family member who tested positive. He missed one game last week, an 83-82 win Wednesday against Boston College.

Still, the Blue Devils were compromised for another game, this time without two reserves. Graduate center Patrick Tapé missed a third consecutive game with a sore back, and freshman forward Henry Coleman III did not travel because of an illness unrelated to the virus.

Duke forward Jalen Johnson also was forecast to miss a fourth straight game with an ailing foot, but the Blue Devils’ third-leading scorer played briefly in the first half, when Virginia Tech forged a lead that reached as many as 18 points at 36-18.

The Hokies continued to apply pressure during the final minutes of the half behind Radford, who sank a jumper, collected an offensive rebound and scored and added a three-point play that bumped the margin to 15 before Hurt’s three-pointer drew Duke within 46-34 at halftime.

Eight players scored for Virginia Tech, underscoring the offensive balance throughout the roster. Reserve Jalen Cone had 14 points as Virginia Tech held a 21-6 advantage in bench points.

Virginia Tech also limited the Blue Devils to 8-for-29 shooting from behind the three-point line. Duke entered ranked fourth in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (35.2).

“We’ve got the potential to make a run for it,” Radford said of winning the ACC championship. “We’ve just to stay level-minded, levelheaded, not to get a big head or anything. We’ve just got to stay humble.”

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