BLACKSBURG, Va.—Another test aced.
After a comeback bid to close out the first half, it was a back-and-forth battle throughout the second period, even if the score didn’t show it. In the end it was No. 7 Duke and its all-around offensive effort and excellence from outside the arc that put the Blue Devils on top of Virginia Tech 77-67.
"They returned a lot of the team that beat us here last year..." head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. "I thought our team just had great togetherness, some timely threes and some guys step up at key moments."
Senior captain Jeremy Roach doesn’t come off the bench often (only once since Jan. 23, 2023, against Clemson Saturday), but his ankle seems to have healed. The guard led the team in scoring with 16 points on 4-for-5 3-point attempts, topping off a 52.9% shooting night for the Blue Devils (16-4, 7-2 in the ACC).
Duke’s foul trouble was, once again, pervasive. Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski picked up his fourth with more than eight minutes to play, all called in the second half. With the Blue Devils’ limited frontcourt depth, graduate Ryan Young and sophomore Mark Mitchell had to take on the bulk of the second-half minutes.
Young did his duty off the bench: After getting beat by Mylyjael Poteat off the dribble with less than seven to play, he rushed back and got up over the 6-foot-9 forward for a clean block. He was effective on the offensive glass with five boards and tallied two assists, a rarity for him.
"He's so crafty down there," said Scheyer of Young. "He's at his best if he goes right up, even if they block his shot one time, to be aggressive."
After a Roach charge ended a Blue Devil opportunity, Mitchell got to work on the defensive end. He got his hands on a pass from MJ Collins and passed it up to Roach, who kicked it out to an open Jared McCain outside the arc. The freshman drilled it. On Duke’s next possession, Roach received his second offensive foul of the day (his third overall). He drained a three the next chance he got, right after the 3-pointer Hunter Cattoor scored off Roach’s turnover. From Cattoor’s three to Filipowski’s free throws just under the 11-minute mark, each side only missed one shot, both 3-pointers. Only three of the makes from the floor were unassisted. Both offenses were firing, and nothing seemed to be able to get in their way.
After only being called for two fouls in the opening 20 minutes, the Hokies (13-8, 5-5) had three in the first four minutes of the second period, sending Filipowski to the line for Duke’s first free throw attempts of the game. The sophomore’s struggles from the line continued — after going 5-for-11 against Clemson, Filipowski ended the night 2-of-5.
With a comfortable lead and less than five minutes to play in the first period, Duke looked in charge. Mitchell had ended three consecutive possessions with turnovers, be them travels or errant passes, but he had found space in the paint and had two emphatic dunks to show for it. But then he turned it over twice more. By the end of the first half, Mitchell was responsible for six of the Blue Devils’ eight turnovers. He was taken out of the game for the last few sequences. Morris and company continued their comeback bid, but Roach silenced a roaring Cassell Coliseum on a second-chance triple as the clock expired.
"It was probably one of the biggest plays of the game," said Filipowski. "Going up six rather than being up three at halftime, giving their team a little more doubt in their minds."
Through the middle chunk of the first period, it was all Duke. Literally. Freshman guard Caleb Foster’s second 3-pointer of the day, made six-and-a-half minutes into the game, sparked a 10-0 Blue Devil run. More than five minutes later, Sean Pedulla ended the scoring drought with two free throws, but it would be another 90 seconds before Lynn Kidd found a lane and kickstarted his offense.
It was a rough start for the Blue Devils. Filipowski’s first layup bounced off the rim and out, and though Mitchell grabbed the offensive board, his attempt to go back up was blocked. Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor missed a mid-range jumper on the next possession, and Kidd got Filipowski to jump before he hammered it home to put the Hokies up 4-0 early. Foster was the first to help stop the bleeding, making a long two to finally put his team on the board.
Foster was the only one with any early shooting touch, making his first three attempts from the floor, two of which went for three.
This was not the first menacing road environment the Blue Devils have faced thus far this season, and it certainly will not be the last. Duke gets an extra day off before it drives down the road Saturday for this year’s inaugural Rivalry matchup against No. 3 North Carolina.
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Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.