BLACKSBURG, Va.—Big runs defined the evening in southwest Virginia. The Hokies’ final burst just came when it mattered most.
On a chilly Monday night in Cassell Coliseum, Duke and Virginia Tech dueled to the final seconds of the game as the Hokies took a 78-75 victory.
"Our guys really competed, really battled, put ourselves in a position to win that game coming back down from 13," head coach Jon Scheyer said. "You can point to a few plays, but they made one more play than us. That's how it can be on the road."
The Blue Devils (14-6, 5-4 in the ACC) and Hokies (12-8, 2-7) went even at 63 apiece thanks to a monster Duke run to open the second half featuring five 3-pointers to take a slim lead. Before you could blink, Virginia Tech came back to send the game into crunch time.
Each team’s offense looked to punch it inside while also firing away at the rare open 3-point look. It was a battle of which squad would miss first, and it was Duke that fell into a slump from the field as the clock wound into the closing minutes. With under seven minutes to play, a Hunter Cattoor three—followed by a Grant Basile shot from near the free-throw line as the shot clock expired—handed the Hokies a 72-67 advantage as the Cassell Coliseum crowd roared as loud as it had all night.
The Blue Devils earned several chances late, including an offensive foul to give the ball back to Duke down by three, as well as a chance for Jeremy Roach to narrow the deficit to one from the free throw line with 2:17 to go. The Blue Devils could not convert on either, leading to Duke playing from down by three with a minute left.
On Duke’s next possession, freshman guard Tyrese Proctor connected on his second 3-pointer of the night to even things up at 75-75 with 38 seconds on the clock. MJ Collins put the Hokies back on top with 13.6 seconds to go on a pull-up jumper over the outstretched arm of Duke’s Mark Mitchell.
Proctor was again the shooter on Duke’s next possession when he found some space from 3-point range, but he barely hit the front iron, leading to a Virginia Tech rebound and a Collins trip to the line for a chance to ice the game.
"[Proctor] had a great look from the wing and that wasn't even necessarily the play. You know, we want the ball in [Filipowski's] hands," Scheyer said.
He nailed his first, giving back his Hokies a three-point lead, but missed the second to allow the Blue Devils one final shot at a game-tying 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left following timeouts from both Scheyer and Virginia Tech’s Mike Young.
Graduate center Ryan Young inbounded to Roach but the pass was intercepted by Virginia Tech’s Cattoor, who dribbled the remaining seconds off the clock.
"We have to execute that better and give Filipowski a chance, but [Cattoor] made a heads up play," Scheyer said.
"It's hard because you hate losing and I think this team is really special," Filipowski said.
The conference affair was back and forth the whole way. Even after each team built considerable leads, nothing was out of the question for what was to come next until the final buzzer sounded.
Disruptive Virginia Tech defense on the first possession with the lyrics of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman'' coming from the student section led to a shot clock-beating freshman forward Dariq Whitehead 3-pointer to start off the scoring. The Duke lead quickly grew thanks to a Filipowski putback and then a fast-break finish from the freshman center to gain a fast 7-0 lead.
The Hokies soon after began forcing trouble on the defensive end to convert several turnovers into points on the other end, with the home side taking a 29-19 lead as the first-half clock neared the 10-minute mark. Virginia Tech quickly found—and stuck with—its attack that notably sunk the Blue Devils 82-67 in the ACC championship game in March. The Hokies started shooting and making 3-pointers.
Cattoor, who notched a career-high 31 points on seven 3-pointers in that ACC tournament final, scored 12 of his 15 points on four first-half threes. Virginia Tech’s motion offense kept either Cattoor or Sean Pedulla, also a deep threat who finished with 16 points, ready for the catch-and-shoot off the screen.
As a result, the Blue Devils spent much of the first half playing from behind, and relied on the defense of Mitchell to cover up Cattoor and the playmaking of Roach on the offensive side to try to come back into it by the break.
Down 45-38 at the break, Duke allowed the second-most points it had given up in any half all season Monday night.
Proctor and Filipowski then calmly hit back-to-back 3-pointers to close the Hokie lead to one at the start of the second half. The Duke buckets quickly signaled to everyone in the building that Monday’s ACC battle was never going to be a blowout. Filipowski finished his night with a career-high 29 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the year.
The Blue Devils came out of the gates trying to replicate the hot hand from beyond the arc controlled entirely by their opponents in the first half by hitting their first five 3-point attempts. As a team, the Blue Devils connected on 9-of-23 3-point attempts. A Mitchell three with 16:12 on the clock knotted things up at 51-51 moments before Whitehead headed to the locker room with an injury to his left leg.
Whitehead scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting before leaving the game after taking an awkward fall going for a loose ball. He did not return and Scheyer was not able to provide an update on his condition postgame.
The 3-point barrage from the Blue Devils ultimately put Duke ahead 56-53 after Filipowski connected on his third deep ball of the half. Aggressive drives and two offensive rebounds by Proctor supplemented the long ball as Duke battled to a slim five-point advantage with 13:47 to play.
"Just stay confident, stay together," Filipowski said of the message at halftime that sparked the run.
Just like in the first half, the Hokies would not let the Duke lead grow beyond that by coming back to retake the lead 61-59 with a Collins three and a Basile three-point play.
The Blue Devils’ next matchup takes them to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech Saturday at 3 p.m.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.