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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball's bench leads team to first win at Virginia Tech since 2015

Jack White contributed seven points and two blocks in 22 minutes of action
Jack White contributed seven points and two blocks in 22 minutes of action

A dominant second half carried Duke to a 77-63 victory at Virginia Tech Friday evening, the Blue Devils' first road win against the Hokies since 2015. The Blue Zone breaks down three key takeaways, three key stats and looks forward for the Duke squad:

Three key takeaways:

1. Duke propels through the toughest week of the fall

In the span of just four days, the Blue Devils traveled to East Lansing, Mich. to play the Michigan State Spartans—the squad that knocked Duke out of last year's Elite Eight—as well as Blacksburg, Va. to square off against a Virginia Tech team that the Blue Devils have struggled to beat on the road.

But Duke strode into both arenas with poise and came out with two wins in the toughest week of the team's fall slate, and maybe even its year, save for the mid-February stretch where the Blue Devils will head down Tobacco Road to play North Carolina and then return home to play a now-No.17 Florida State team.

Duke fans will, and should, take heart at the ability of their team to shake off a historic loss to win two tough road games.

2. The bench can play

This team is a little bit different than previous iterations.

Ten players saw minutes last night, with starter Cassius Stanley seeing the least floor time coming off his injury at seven minutes. Every other player had at least 10 minutes on the hardwood, and most made positive contributions. Off the bench, Wendell Moore Jr. played 27 minutes in the contest, while Joey Baker accumulated 20. Add on Jordan Goldwire’s 30 minutes off the bench and these three played more than anyone for Duke save for Tre Jones.

The ability of head coach Mike Krzyzewski to be able to rely on his entire roster is a key piece in any team that hopes to be hoisting a national title in April It is not something the 2018-19 Blue Devils had, and may have been the missing piece of that ultra-talented squad.

3. The spark of Jordan Goldwire

Speaking of Goldwire’s 30 floor minutes, the junior played perhaps the best all-around game of his time in a Duke uniform. Though he provided the energy that spurred the Blue Devils to an improbable comeback win at Louisville last year, this time he proved that he could be a factor on the offensive end of the floor in the halfcourt set.

Goldwire ended the night with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists to go along with two takeaways. It was a statline that we had seen the back half of, but two made treys on five attempts is not something that he has brought to the Blue Devils until last night.

If he can keep playing like this, he will become a continuously viable option to play alongside Jones late into the season.

Three key stats:

Duke shoots 10-of-10 on free throws

It is no secret that Duke has struggled extensively on free throws to begin the 2019-20 campaign, but it must have spent some time working in practice before the game last night.

Headed into the extremely loud, obnoxiously orange environment that is Blacksburg, Va., the Blue Devils knocked down their shots every single time they were sent to the line. This includes four makes by freshman Vernon Carey Jr., who has had plenty of issues in this category so far this year. The 10-of-10 performance marks the first time Duke has finished a game perfect from the charity stripe since 2015, when it shot 2-of-2 in a win against San Diego State. 

The Blue Devils grab 32 rebounds, Virginia Tech hauls in 31

Despite facing one of the shortest teams in college basketball Friday night, the Blue Devils came down with only 32 rebounds, just one more than the Hokies. This came along with plenty of paint points for Virginia Tech, who put in a healthy majority of their buckets from the paint.

Duke had clearly geared its defense toward defending the three, which made sense for a Virginia Tech team that jacks up an average of 27 shots from beyond the arc per game. The Blue Devils held the Hokies to only 20 attempts Friday night, and only five makes.

That being said, Duke will need to find a way to have more of a paint presence against teams that shoot a lot of threes.

The Hokies storm out to a 12-point first half lead

Duke went down early, but came back strong. 

Isaiah Wilkins hit a three for Virginia Tech with 12:38 on the clock in the first half to stretch the lead to 20-8, and the decibel level was up considerably. But Duke fought back—sparked by a Goldwire trey and Jack White Dunk— to finish the half, with a Jones buzzer beater reducing the deficit to just three.

The resilience shown Friday is a welcoming sign for Duke fans, showing that no matter the opponent, first half adversity does not translate to a bad loss.

Looking forward

Duke only plays once in the next few weeks, facing off against Wofford Dec. 19 in the short break between the end of finals and Christmas. The Blue Devils then match up against Brown and conference rival Boston College before the new year, and before the new semester begins to bring tough conference tests.

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