Virginia Tech pushed No. 3 Duke for 30 minutes on Tuesday night, but eventually wore down in Cameron Indoor, falling 85-57.
“I’m proud of these guys’ effort tonight,” said James Johnson, head coach. “They played great for about 30 or 32 minutes. We came out ready to play the first half; we just weren’t able to make the plays down that stretch that we needed to.”
Erick Green — the nation’s leading scorer — led the way for Tech with 25 points. It was the 28th time in 30 games Green led the Hokies (13-17, 4-13 ACC) in scoring.
Unfortunately, his teammates finished just 12-of-38 from the floor.
“I count on these guys, regardless of the situation or score,” Green said. “I still believe in all these guys and that they can make plays.”
Jarell Eddie hit a three with 12:37 remaining to pull Tech to within six at 53-47.
Duke then went on a tear, finishing the game on a 32-10 run.
“Their size and physicality were too much for us and they wore us down in the second half,” Johnson said. “We weren’t able to capitalize.”
The Blue Devils (26-4, 13-4 ACC) won the battle on the glass, 37-31 on the night. Most notable, however, were the second half numbers, in which they pulled down 22 boards to the Hokies’ 10.
“I think their rebounding took us over inside with their big men,” Johnson said. “I think they did a really good job on the glass.”
Tech’s shooting numbers cooled off in the second half, as well. After hitting 14-of-32 shots in the first half, Tech made just eight field goals in the second.
Eddie, who’s had an up-and-down season, came out hot, scoring eight of Tech’s first 12 points just five minutes into the game. He cooled down, however, and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
“I started to feel it again this game,” Eddie said.
The Blue Devils finished 12-of-23 from beyond the arc on the night.
“We did a decent job, I thought. We were there on a lot of those threes, they made some tough shots,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember anywhere where they were wide open. Even with a hand in their face, they made those shots.”
Duke’s Ryan Kelly — playing in his second game coming off a foot injury that forced him to miss 13 games — served as the X-factor for the Blue Devils, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.
Kelly and fellow big man Mason Plumlee — 14 points and seven rebounds — were able to have big nights due in part to Hokie foul trouble, which forced Tech’s big men to play safer defense for most of the second half.
Cadarian Raines — who had two fouls in the first 2:11 and played just 11 minutes — and Joey van Zegeren both finished with four fouls. C.J. Barksdale had three.
“We had to go to the (2-3) zone because of foul trouble and to give ourselves a little bit of a breather,” Johnson said.
Despite being blanketed by Duke’s Quinn Cook for most of the night, Green was able to have yet another big game. He shot 10-of-19 from the floor, while pulling down four rebounds and dishing out two assists.
“I think they did a good job; they tried to take the ball out of my hand and didn’t let me bring the ball up the court,” Green said. “They made me work. It was a good job on their part.”
Seth Curry led the Blue Devils with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-9 from three.
The Hokies travel to Winstom-Salem on Sunday to take on Wake Forest in their final regular season contest. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.