. Too much went right for Virginia Tech when it hosted Duke on Saturday.
But the Hokies forced it to be so.
They shot the lights out from 3-point range, beat Duke on the offensive boards and took advantage of a loose defense, while applying a suffocating one of their own.
The Blue Devils couldn’t overcome all that fell in line for Virginia Tech in their 89-75 loss in Blacksburg.
With suspended guard Grayson Allen seated, sophomore Luke Kennard carried a Duke offense that saw nine players in the rotation in the ACC opener for both teams. He led the Blue Devils with 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting on a day when his team shot 28-of-67 from the floor, 39 percent in the first half to Virginia Tech’s 58 percent.
Duke, without one of its star players, didn’t recover from Virginia Tech’s dominating first half.
“They played like we’d been playing, with continuity,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We haven’t played well since before exams, and that continued. I thought we had some good practices when we returned from Christmas, but it’s not enough. They made us not play well, and we didn’t play well.”
Meanwhile, the Hokies (12-1, 1-0 ACC) continued one of their best starts in years by utilizing their depth and claiming the momentum early. They never trailed in their first win over Duke since 2011.
It was hard for Duke to bounce back from its poor offensive rebounding in the first half and the lapses on that side in the second.
Virginia Tech buried a 3-pointer in the first half after Duke couldn’t secure a 50-50 ball, giving the Hokies an 8-0 lead to start the game. Duke pulled down nine offensive rebounds in the first half, while Virginia Tech posted nine second-chance baskets in that period and seven off fast breaks.
Justin Bibbs, who finished 4-of-5 from deep, was unstoppable during a second-half run where he scored seven straight points.
On the other end, Tech’s defense made shots hard to come by early, forcing Duke (12-2, 0-1 ACC) into some uncomfortable attempts.
“I think (the loss) just epitomizes the intensity of the ACC. Guys are going to come after us night in and night out,” Duke senior guard Matt Jones said. “They came out and hit us in the mouth, and we had to prepare for that. We tried to fight for a period there, but we just couldn’t get over that hump.”
Freshman Jayson Tatum nailed a 3-pointer from Jones on a possession featuring good ball movement, but it wasn’t nearly enough down 17-11 and Duke struggling to find offense. Duke trailed 25-15 and had just two offensive rebounds at the 8:38 mark of the first. A few moments later, Bibbs sunk another triple that forced Krzyzewski, who had already shed his suit jacket as the Hokies came out firing, to call a timeout.
Bibbs scored on three straight possessions. He answered a Kennard 3-pointer that brought Duke within a manageable 11, scored off his own steal and took advantage in transition after a defensive rebound by Ahmed Hill (17 points).
Two defensive rebounds by Virginia Tech mid-second half led to a quick 5-0 strike that gave the Hokies a 17-point lead. They made eight of 13 triples on the day.
Freshman Harry Giles scored his first field goal of his career and grabbed eight boards to man the middle alongside Amile Jefferson (nine points, 12 rebounds), but the rookie big was one of three Devils to face foul trouble; Jefferson had three and Frank Jackson, starting for a suspended Allen, picked up four.
Duke is no stranger to a variety of lineups, and Chase Jeter and Jack White found themselves in the mix Saturday as Duke tried to answer the home team. Javin DeLauier (ankle) sported a boot.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @jessikaMorgan