BLACKSBURG, Va.—Cam Reddish barreled down the lane with just more than 13 minutes to play, knocking a Hokie defender down on his own way to the ground.
Third-ranked Duke, like its freshman sharpshooter, was off-balance and out of whack.
Seven road wins in ACC play weren't going to become eight for the Blue Devils Tuesday night.
No. 20 Virginia Tech knocked off Duke 77-72 at Cassell Coliseum, taking down the Blue Devils for a third consecutive time on its home floor. Without Zion Williamson once again, Duke leaned on 38 combined points from the duo of Reddish and R.J. Barrett, but a dagger corner triple from Hokie forward Ty Outlaw in the final 90 seconds put the hosts ahead for good, and the Blue Devils’ perfect start away from home in conference play came to a halt.
“That was just a heck of a game, hard-fought, [and I’m] proud of my guys,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’ve been on this amazing schedule, and I think they fought each game and they fought tonight.”
After Duke surged from down five and leveled the game at 59 apiece on an R.J. Barrett triple, Virginia Tech took advantage of a soft Blue Devil zone out of the under-eight media timeout to retake the lead, as Wabissa Bede canned a 3-pointer right in front of the Hokies’ bench.
With the visitors in serious foul trouble, though, Virginia Tech started to go back inside, feeding big man Kerry Blackshear Jr., as it did most of the night. The 6-foot-10 redshirt junior finished the game with 23 points and 10 boards for his third double-double in as many games.
“You have a port in a storm, but it’s a friendly port,” Krzyzewski said of Blackshear. “It’s not just somebody to throw it to score, he can make plays. He’s a playmaker for them. He’s the most unusual center in our league. You just don’t play against guys like him.”
And when Blackshear slammed home a thunderous two-handed jam just before the under-four media timeout, it seemed like the home team was on its way to finishing off the upset.
Alex O'Connell, however, had other plans, drilling a clutch 3-pointer from the left wing, bringing the Duke bench to its feet as Coach K called a timeout with 3:16 remaining.
Following a Blue Devil stop, Duke (24-4, 12-3 in the ACC) worked the ball in deep, with Reddish missing a floater that Marques Bolden collected for a put-back lay-in. The next trip down, Barrett lobbed one to Bolden, who put down the two-handed jam to tie things at 70.
“We have a lot of pride in our fight,” Reddish said. “Coach stresses that we fight regardless of the situation—practice, games. I thought as a team we did a good job of fighting, but we didn’t come out on the good end today.”
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The Hokies wouldn't go quietly into the night, though, as Outlaw drained the eventual game-winning shot just 11 seconds later. Reddish’s triple on the other end did not go down and Virginia Tech hit all four of its free throws in the final minute to salt away its 11th ACC win of the season.
“We just needed another stop to give us a chance to take the lead, and we left open a guy,” Tre Jones said. “I think we played pretty good defense, we rotated how we were supposed to rotate and they just hit a shot.”
It was an uncharacteristic first 20 minutes for Duke in more ways than one. Until just before the halftime buzzer, Barrett failed to make a field goal, and after entering the night averaging just fewer than 13 turnovers a game, the Blue Devils gave the ball away seven times before the break.
Virginia Tech (22-6, 11-5) capitalized on the visitors' errors, scoring 10 points off turnovers and stretching its lead to as many as six in the latter stages of the half.
“I’ve got to take responsibility for that as a leader,” Jones said. “I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do—get us organized as a team.”
Before that, though, neither team was able to get a real foothold.
Duke and the Hokies kept within four points of each other for the opening 16 minutes as Reddish shouldered the offensive load for the Blue Devils—the freshman logged 12 points with a pair of triples as no other Duke player scored more than six before intermission.
The Blue Devils will now return home for their last two regular-season contests in Durham, hosting Miami Saturday afternoon before Tuesday's Senior Night matchup with Wake Forest.
“That six-game stretch [since Feb. 9] was going to be tough no matter what, especially with four of the games being Saturday-Tuesday away games. It’s just an unusual thing, but when you lose Zion right in the middle, then it escalates,” Krzyzewski said. “Overall, my team’s done an outstanding job, and we’ll move forward now.... We’ve got to get back and get refreshed.”