No. 7 Duke men's basketball's headliners showed up in win at Virginia Tech. Crucially, so did the whole team

Tyrese Proctor (right) and Mark Mitchell (left) celebrate during Duke's road win against Virginia Tech.
Tyrese Proctor (right) and Mark Mitchell (left) celebrate during Duke's road win against Virginia Tech.

BLACKSBURG, Va.—There were 21 seconds left on the clock when sophomore center Kyle Filipowski snatched the ball for a defensive rebound. Virginia Tech had cut the Blue Devils’ lead to three just moments earlier off a triple from MJ Collins. Cassell Coliseum was roaring as the momentum seemed squarely on the Hokies’ side.

Duke was on its heels as the team made its way to the offensive end. The Blue Devils needed a big play to redeem themselves going into the locker room after blowing an 11-point lead. Enter Jeremy Roach.

The senior guard missed his initial 3-point attempt with six seconds left on the clock, but he didn’t hang his head. Instead, as freshman forward Sean Stewart kept the ball alive with an offensive rebound, he got in position behind the arc once more. This time, with the rock in his hands, Roach was lethal. He drained the last-second three as a collective groan sounded from the home crowd. Duke needed a hero to step up in the face of adversity, and Roach was up to the task.

“I think that’s probably the most important play of the game, to be honest,” said head coach Jon Scheyer. “It’s a difference maker.”

For decades, the Blue Devils have been defined by their stars. Guys like Filipowski and classmate Tyrese Proctor — the players topping award lists, dominating headlines and trending on social media — are the first to come to mind when Duke is brought up. These individuals are often the ones expected to burn brightest under the intense pressure of big games, producing crucial buckets or executing plays. Yet Monday night’s contest against the Hokies proved an entirely different point. 

In the face of adverse conditions, all players need to step up and perform, not just the headlining talent.

Through 40 minutes of basketball, it was guys like Roach and others who responded when Virginia Tech went on scoring runs or foul trouble came knocking. And it was their ability to show up and show out that will dominate the highlight reel.

“It was incredible,” Filipowski said of the team’s all-around performance. “It’s just credit to us for staying together, coming together during these hard moments.”

Roach was not the only veteran to burst onto the proverbial scene in the team’s 77-67 win in the face of adversity. Graduate center Ryan Young earned his flowers as well. Just under four minutes into the second half, Filipowski tallied his third personal foul of the contest against Hokie star Hunter Cattoor. Already in foul trouble, Scheyer subbed on the former Northwestern transfer for the star sophomore. While not an unusual substitution, something was different about Young. He was ready for his moment. 

Tallying a season-high 10 points and five rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting, Young was electric. While the Blue Devils seemed down on their luck minutes earlier with Filipowski out of the matchup, the Stewartsville, N.J., native lifted Duke’s spirits as he thrived in the paint. Relentlessly working beneath the basket, he put back two second-chance layups while dishing out two assists as well. He even got a dunk during his 15 minutes on the floor. Defensively, he was equally imposing, getting a huge block against Mylyjael Poteat late in the second half. It was no Filipowski, no problem with Young in to fire his team up in what was initially a bleak situation. 

“Ryan, he’s so important for our team,” Scheyer said of his captain. “He came in and gave us a lift. We were winning when Ryan was in the game.”

“I mean, really shout out to Ryan Young,” Roach added when talking about the toughness of the team.

It was not just the veterans who stepped up and persevered; the young guns were in on the show too. Freshman guard Jared McCain put in an impressive performance as he continues to draw national attention. The ACC Rookie of the Week posted nine points — a relatively low total for him — but came up big with 10 rebounds. He may not have played a major scoring role like he is accustomed to, yet McCain showed up where he was needed. When the Blue Devils floundered on the defensive glass, the Sacramento, Calif., native stepped in to fill the gap. Yet again, a hero prevailed for Duke in an unlikely way.

“He’s really just a winner,” Scheyer said of the freshman. “He started the domino, and that’s who he is, just whatever the game requires.” 

While the headlining talent certainly had its moments, it was the likes of Roach, Young and McCain who allowed the Blue Devils to travel back to Durham with another notch in the win column. With their performances, they demonstrated exactly why this Duke team has the potential to be great — in the face of difficult situations in difficult games, the Blue Devils have an X-factor at every spot on the floor. 

These players may not always be the name mentioned by Scheyer in the press conference every night as a leading scorer, but they define Duke’s lethal versatility. And as the Blue Devils progress through the rest of their season, wins will not result from a one- or two-person effort. Victories must be the product of the many. 

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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