BLACKSBURG, Va. - Virginia Tech was up by two points with 4.9 seconds to go, and with Duke’s Daniel Ewing set to inbound the ball, the Hokie fans were all leaning up against the railing. Ewing found a smothered J.J. Redick, who kicked it back to Ewing for a wide open look to win the game.
Ewing’s attempt glanced of the left side of the rim, and the fans rushed the court to celebrate a 67-65 upset victory.
“The basketball gods were smiling on us a little bit tonight,” Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. “Duke is Duke. They’ve been to 10 final fours, and everything that is great about college basketball Duke epitomizes. To have a chance to win against Duke, and win is something I’m proud of.”
The clutch shot of the game belonged to Zabian Dowdell, who hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining to give Virginia Tech (13-10, 6-6 in the ACC) the two-point cushion that Duke (18-4, 8-4) could not overcome. Dowdell’s shot came in response to a Redick three that put Duke up one with 23 seconds to go.
“Zabian is not afraid to take a big shot,” Greenberg said. “He thinks every shot is going in.”
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski had only praise for both Greenberg and his squad.
“They outfought us, they showed a great deal of poise,” Krzyzewski said. “For us to get outrebounded by 17 in a basketball game shows something about us but more about the other team. I thought they had tremendous desire and hunger, and they were extremely well-prepared.”
The difference in aggressiveness between the two teams was evident in the Hokies’ 14-2 advantage in second chance points, a discrepency that heavily influenced the outcome of the game.
“They killed us on the boards,” Ewing said. “They also beat us to a lot more loose balls.”
Virginia Tech’s Coleman Collins provided much of that rebounding edge. The sophomore grabbed 18 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass, to open things up for his team’s main scoring threats.
Leading the way for the Hokies offensively were Carlos Dixon and Jamon Gordon, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Dixon, guarded most of the game by Redick, was the team’s go-to guy all night, and he made several key shots to stall Duke runs.
“Dixon played real well tonight,” Redick said. “He hit some tough shots on me. I know he’s a right driver, and I gave him the right drive one too many times.”
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Returning to the Blue Devils lineup was forward Reggie Love, who missed nearly seven weeks with a broken right foot. Love appeared out of sync with Duke’s offensive flow on several occasions in his 19 minutes of play.
“The crowd was really loud, which made it hard,” Love said. “It did feel good to be out there again.”
Virginia Tech came out hot in the first half, using an early 10-2 run to stake a 20-12 lead. After Duke came back with a 10-2 run of its own to tie the game, neither team led by more than seven for the rest of the game. They traded leads for the rest of the contest.
The X-factor for the Hokies was center Jeff King, who played 21 minutes off the bench. In addition to scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds, King helped contain Shelden Williams all night. Williams still managed 16 points and seven rebounds, but Thursday he was not the impact player he usually is.
“I made a huge mistake when we first got [King],” Greenberg said. “We never got him into basketball shape. We went up and down three days in a row, to give him a feel for what it would be like, because I knew he would be important to this game.”
As the game remained close and the clock ticked down, the 9,847 fans in Cassell Coliseum became louder and louder, providing a Cameron-like sixth man advantage.
“I think their fans were great,” Krzyzewski said. “They had a great team effort tonight, and it paid off.”