BLACKSBURG – Going into Tuesday night’s Top 25 matchup, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Virginia Tech for playing “as one.” The Hokies went into the game stressing sound team basketball to overcome Duke’s individual talent edge.
But when the game got tight, Tech’s own individual talent showed up just fine.
Tyrece Radford, Keve Aluma and Jalen Cone each took turns seemingly sing-handedly holding off the No. 19 Blue Devils, as the No. 20 Hokies held on for a 74-67 win, Tech’s third over a ranked foe this season.
“I’ll take nothing away from my guys. I’ve got good players also that have played a lot of basketball around here now,” said coach Mike Young. “I like my team and the things each individual brings to the unit.”
Radford scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, helping Tech jump out to an early lead. Aluma got 13 of his 17 in the second half, helping to hold off a Duke surge, and potentially sealing the win with a blocked shot on Jeremy Roach with 1:25 to go.
And Cone, as he has in each of the past three games, proved unguardable at times on the perimeter, finishing 3 for 5 from 3-point range and contributing 14 points.
“I’ve got a pretty good team,” said Young. “Let’s not beat around the bush. We’ve got a pretty good team. I think we have a chance to be really good.”
Roach led Duke with a game-high 22 and forward Matthew Hurt added 20.
Tech (10-2, 4-1 ACC) led by as many as 18 in the first half, but the Blue Devils got within 68-64 after a pair of free throws by Roach with 2:34 to play.
For the first time this season, Cassell Coliseum hosted a Top 25 matchup, with both Tech and Duke (5-3, 3-1) in the national rankings this week. And accordingly, Tech drew its largest home crowd this year, using almost all of its 250 capacity limit of family and friends of players and staff.
Virginia Tech came out aggressively on both ends of the floor, forcing five turnovers in the first nine minutes of play, and shooting well at the onset. The Hokies hit 6 of their first 8 shots, including all three of their 3-point attempts, to jump out to a 17-7 lead.
A 12-0 run, fueled by Cone and Aluma, pushed Tech’s advantage to 29-12 midway through the first half.
Duke outscored the Hokies 18-10 over the final seven minutes of the half, but Radford made sure the home team kept the lead during that time, scoring all 10 of Tech’s points.
The Blue Devils trailed 46-34 at halftime.
They opened the second half with a vengeance, using a 6-0 run to get within 46-40 early in the period.
Duke’s leading scorer, Hurt, held in check for the first half, scored eight straight – hitting two 3-pointers and a 12-foot fadeaway jumper, to trim Tech’s edge to a single point at 56-55 with 13:21 left.
But on the other side, the Hokies’ leading scorer – Aluma – was going to work, as well. He scored seven in a row for Tech to help keep the lead.
After outrebounding Notre Dame 41-24 in a win Sunday, Tech coach Mike Young noted the importance that statistic would have Tuesday night against the Blue Devils. And his players heeded his call, remaining competitive on the glass all game long.
Tech ended up outrebounding Duke 34-33.
Former Episcopal star Henry Coleman, a freshman at Duke, didn’t make the trip with the Blue Devils. Coleman is ill, though he has tested negative for COVID-19.
The Hokies play at Wake Forest on Sunday night.