BLACKSBURG, Va.—Duke's uber-talented freshmen have been waiting for suspense nearly their entire basketball careers. Now that they've got it, many don't know what to do with it.
But not junior point guard Jordan Goldwire.
The 10th-ranked Blue Devils and Virginia Tech played on a teeter-totter throughout the second half Friday night, bouncing back and forth within three points of each other. With the game on the line, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski chose to play only one freshman—Wendell Moore. Goldwire and Jack White, a senior forward, more than proved their playing time worthy, aiding Duke in its final pull away from Virginia Tech. Surrounded in a sea of orange, the veterans led the Blue Devils to take Friday's game in Cassell Coliseum 77-63.
"This is the toughest week I've had in years for a basketball team because we played at Michigan State in a 9:30 game and got back at 4 a.m. on Wednesday," Krzyzewski said. "For us to play those last 18 minutes like that—it's just sensational."
Goldwire had perhaps the most spectacular game of his career, leading the team in rebounds and steals. He scored 10 points, including two treys, and played more minutes than anyone except Tre Jones.
Goldwire's poor shooting reputation preceded him. Last season, he had only hit three times from long range. His two deep bombs helped him match that total already this season.
He was more than just a deep threat Friday, though. A telling second-half sequence explained his impact. Wendell Moore's fast-break layup was blocked, but Goldwire stole the ball back. Joey Baker missed the ensuing three, but that was no problem for Goldwire, who snatched the offensive board and finished off the play.
"I've been in close games before," Goldwire said. "I just stay poised and do the little things that my team needs. I definitely felt comfortable out there."
The senior captain White solidified the interior, but more importantly, revved the team into motion. The game began to slip away from Duke (9-1, 1-0 in the ACC) in the beginning of the second half, and even Krzyzewski snapping his whiteboard over his knee didn't push his team to offer more than a lackluster performance. But after a ferocious crowd-silencing, second-half dunk by White, Duke would never relinquish the lead.
"I've been working on finishing in practice throughout the week and finishing strong," White said. "I know it's something I can do. I knew that play would suck some life out of them."
Against the Hokies (6-3, 1-1), the Blue Devils did not look like the dominant force that swept Michigan State off of its feet early Tuesday. Duke couldn't buy a stop early and trailed by as many as 12 points. Double-teams choked off star center Vernon Carey Jr. from his paint artistry. Virginia Tech contested all shots, everywhere.
Disciplined play kept the Blue Devils in the game, though. Duke came into the game ranked 238th in free throw percentage; it had been shooting below 70 percent from the charity stripe. Friday night, the Blue Devils went 10-for-10 from the line. By the end of the half, the Hokies' lead had been whittled down to three.
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Duke's bench, highlighted by Goldwire and White, played an instrumental role as well. The bench combined for 35 of Duke's 77 points, and the Blue Devils coasted in the final four minutes.
“We were just hungry for [the win in Blacksburg]” White said. “For the seniors, in our last time around, I didn’t want to visualize not winning it. No way.”
The Blue Devils had fewer than 48 hours between their road games against Michigan State and Virginia Tech. With conference play officially underway for Duke, the players have time to take a breather—if you consider final exams a breather—before its next game. Duke has two weeks before it takes on Wofford Dec. 19 back in Durham.