5 observations from No. 7 Duke men's basketball's first half against Virginia Tech

<p>Tyrese Proctor drives in his clutch 18-point performance against Clemson.&nbsp;</p>

Tyrese Proctor drives in his clutch 18-point performance against Clemson. 

BLACKSBURG, Va.—With just one day off, No. 7 Duke had a quick turnaround before Monday evening’s game at Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils had a comfortable lead, but the Hokies nearly came crawling back. Duke leads 35-29:

Overcoming road jitters

After a slow start that saw the Hokies jump out to an early lead, the Blue Devils began to find their footing in the hostile environment of Cassell Coliseum. Freshman guard Caleb Foster was the driving force behind the comeback, making two threes on back-to-back possessions to put Duke up 14-13 at the first media timeout, its first lead of the game. The Blue Devils quickly warmed up from there, going on a 10-0 scoring run while shooting 5-of-8 from the field over that stretch. Duke never gave the lead back after fighting its way into the game, going into the locker room with a six-point margin. However, the Blue Devils made it difficult on themselves before time was up in the first half, letting Virginia Tech go on an 8-0 run to close out. Ever the hero, senior guard Jeremy Roach silenced the home crowd with a last-second three before heading into the break.

Filipowski, Roach begin to bounce back

After struggling against Clemson Saturday, veterans Roach and Kyle Filipowski seemed to get back in the groove Monday evening. Filipowski, for his part, got six points through the first half, including a statement dunk just more than three minutes in off the fast break after a Hokie turnover. Roach, despite coming off the bench while recovering from an ankle injury, made his impact felt early with a 3-point jumper and driving layup late in the first half. Fellow veterans Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell also got in on the party, with the latter making two dunks in the final five minutes.

Freshmen contribute

It was the freshmen who shined early on against the Hokies and pulled the Blue Devils back into the contest after going down early. Foster did the grunt work in the first few minutes with his back-to-back triples before guard Jared McCain got involved. The Sacramento, Calif., native displayed his signature hustle with a jumper before earning the offensive rebound to give graduate center Ryan Young the second-chance layup. Forward Sean Stewart got some quality minutes as well as three quarters of the “Freshman Four” made an impact.

Struggling defensively to start

The Blue Devils looked out of step defensively through the opening minutes of play, seemingly caught off guard by the Hokies’ quick pace of play and ball movement. Virginia Tech’s lethal potential was evident early as a wide open Lynn Kidd got an easy dunk less than two minutes into the contest. Teammate Hunter Cattoor got another unguarded look soon after with a dunk of his own off a cut inside. The Hokies were equally troublesome from beyond the arc when left unchecked, with MJ Collins left open for a triple. 

Yet as they got comfortable under the bright lights of enemy territory, the Blue Devils’ signature defensive excellence kicked in. The squad from Durham held Virginia Tech without a field goal for a six-minute stretch as the first half progressed, but the Hokies were not easily denied as they kept the lead to single digits for most of the remaining period. Duke also put up eight turnovers before the buzzer, all but two of which came at the hands of Mitchell.

Player of the half: Caleb Foster

After having several relatively quiet performances, Foster was locked in early Monday evening as he led the team with eight points going into halftime. While his teammates initially struggled to find their mojo, the Harrisburg, N.C., native kicked off his night with his two 3-pointers to keep the Blue Devils within striking distance of the Hokies. He also notched two assists through the opening 20 minutes, showcasing his all-around abilities as part of Duke’s deep backcourt.


Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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