One team hasn’t won since mid-January, while the other just lost for the first time since mid-January.
It’s safe to say that the Duke Blue Devils and the Virginia Tech Hokies are moving in different directions.
Yet, Tech’s basketball team will nonetheless be charged with attempting to earn its first win after eight straight losses against the No. 6 team in the country, when Duke travels to Blacksburg on Thursday.
“I think the key is going to be that we be sharp and execute and try to get certain guys the ball in the right area,” said head coach James Johnson. “They're a very good defensive team and they're going to try to pressure us and take us out of our offense.”
After sinking to dead last in the ACC following a tough overtime loss to N.C. State, the Hokies aren’t playing for much more than pride at this point, yet Erick Green’s continued brilliance remains the season’s lone bright spot.
“He's a scoring machine,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He can break you down, he can knock down the three, but he can also get to the foul line. He's just a terrific player.”
Green remains the country’s leading scorer, averaging 25.3 points a game — nearly three points more than his closest competition. It’s safe to say that if the Hokies have any semblance of a chance on Thursday night, it’ll be behind a superhuman effort by the senior.
“He's not trying to be the leading scorer in the nation,” Johnson said. “He wants to win, and he makes the right basketball play out there.”
Despite serving as the focal point of the offense for the bulk of the season, opposing teams still haven’t found a way to shut Green down.
“I think he's pretty much scored against everybody,” Krzyzewski said. “They do a great job of putting him in a position where he has the ball and can score. He doesn't have the ball and they do things so that when he gets it, he can score.”
But for all of Green’s importance, it will be his teammates that truly determine whether or not the Hokies can even remain competitive with Duke.