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Hungry Hokies devour Blue Devils

The Blue Devils should be embarrassed by their performance Thursday night at Virginia Tech. Not because they lost. Not because they had their worst shooting performance of the season. Not even because they lost to a lesser opponent. The Blue Devils should be ashamed because they got outhustled..

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Blue Devils should be embarrassed by their performance Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

Not because it lost. Not because it had their worst shooting performance of the season. Not even because it lost to a lesser opponent. Duke should be ashamed because it got outhustled.

If the Blue Devils are famous for two things, it is their strong man-to-man defense and intensity. Duke did not perform either well last night, and that is the reason it lost the game.

“We gotta get back to playing Duke defense,” senior captain Daniel Ewing said. “They beat us on a lot of the little things. They got a lot more out of their hustle plays than we did.”

On one key possession late in the second half with the Blue Devils leading by two, Daniel Ewing failed to corral a ball as he fell out of bounds. Following the inbound pass, the Hokies had three attempts before reserve forward Jeff King was fouled. King made the first free throw, missed the second but dove to the floor to tip it to a teammate who promptly found Carlos Dixon the corner to bury a three, putting Virginia Tech up two.

“That was the possession of the game—It was so emblematic of [Virginia Tech’s] effort,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I’m disappointed with my team, but they played better than we did.”

The four-point possession was indicative of Duke’s struggles throughout the game. In a subsequent possession, a missed Hokie shot was tipped high into the air. Dixon jumped just a little bit higher than Ewing to bring the ball in and draw Ewing’s third foul.

“They beat us to loose balls, got offensive rebounds, got defensive rebounds.” junior Lee Melchionni said. “They were hungrier than us. That’s something that’s unacceptable.”

In recent games, Melchionni and freshman DeMarcus Nelson have contributed significant lifts off the bench. But Thursday, the two were limited to combined totals of 16 minutes, five shot attempts and two points. Reggie Love, who saw his first action since he broke his foot Jan. 2, played 19 minutes but only managed to record two points, four rebounds and one blocked shot.

Even without a great deal of intensity, Duke’s defense appeared to play well statistically, forcing the Hokies to shoot a mediocre 39 percent from the field. But when a team gathers just 23 defensive rebounds and allows its opponent 19 offensive boards, it is going to be difficult to win any game. Many of these offensive rebounds led to tip-ins, including Jamon Gordon’s bucket that gave Virginia Tech a two-point lead with 32 seconds remaining.

“Hunger is something you can’t really fake,” Melchionni said. “We’ve got to get our passion and our desire back. Right now, we’re not playing with that.”

Duke easily could have won Thursday night. Ewing had two open looks for game-winning three-pointers in the final 15 seconds. But in the grand scheme of the season, it may have been a good thing for the Blue Devils to go down in Blacksburg.

Realistically, Duke had virtually no chance to win the ACC regular season title. Instead, this game may serve as a wake-up call for the Blue Devils. They now are well aware, as they should have been all along, that they are a very vulnerable team. When they play their hearts out, they can compete with the elite teams in the country, as they proved against North arolina last week. But in any contest when they leave something in the tank, they are beatable, as Virginia Tech showed Thursday night.

“You’ve got to want to win. That’s what hunger is,” Sean Dockery said. “It’s pride. It’s pride having this jersey on your back.”

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