Duke Now

Five observations that might explain why Duke was upset by Virginia Tech

Duke led Virginia Tech the entire second half – until the second to last play of the game.

Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III contested Virginia Tech freshman guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s game-winning shot attempt, which went over the rim, only to watch it be tipped in by junior wing Chris Clarke with just four seconds left.

Clarke’s tip-in gave the Hokies a 64-63 upset win over the fifth-ranked Blue Devils Monday at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.

Duke had played its best basketball of the season recently, winning five straight heading into the game against Virginia Tech. In four of those games, Duke had given up less than 60 points.

But on Monday, the Blue Devils’ offense wasn’t clicking, and it looked as if Virginia Tech just wanted it more. The Hokies had been embarrassed by the Blue Devils earlier this month, when Duke won 74-52 – without Bagley – on Feb. 14 in Durham.

But that kind of win wasn’t happening for the Blue Devils on Monday on Virginia Tech’s home floor. The crowd was loud the entire game, at times yelling expletives, which even caused Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams to stop the game to tell the crowd to “quit cussing.”

And when the Hokies won, the students stormed the court.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Turnovers were a huge problem.

Duke recorded a season-high 19 turnovers against Miami on Jan. 15. Duke committed one shy of that on Monday night with 18 turnovers, including three in the final 1:33 left in the game. Duke had a five-point lead at that point.

Two of those turnovers led to four easy points for the Hokies.

“Eighteen turnovers and it’s not a high possession game,” Krzyzewski said. “Both teams shot low 50s in shots. They got 24 points off our turnovers. Our defense is good when you don’t give up live ball turnovers.”

Duke had opportunities to increase its lead, but limited those opportunities when it gave the ball back to Virginia Tech.

Grayson Allen, who played point guard, had six turnovers. Duke freshmen guard Gary Trent Jr., forward Wendell Carter Jr. and guard Trevon Duval had three turnovers each. And sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier, who started on Monday, had two turnovers.

2. Duke did not make a field goal in the last seven minutes of the game

After a Bagley layup with 7:02 left to play, Duke went up by nine points. But the Blue Devils missed four shots and turned the ball over five times to end the game. Duval missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have put Duke up by at least two points. Virginia Tech made the game’s final six points to win.

Duke is now 1-2 in games decided by one possession or less, and 1-5 in games decided by two possessions or less.

3. Duke ‘played tired’

Duke had played three games in the last five days, and four in the last eight days. Krzyzewski said he thought his team “played tired” on Monday. He noted that Trent and Allen combined to shoot 5-for-22 from behind the three-point line, which is unusual.

Usually at least one is knocking them down.

But Krzyzewski said his team didn’t play with the energy Virginia Tech had.

“But that’s the thing I was most worried about today, the energy, and we didn’t have it,” he said. “You could tell because we were irritable. On calls, we’re asking for calls and stuff like that. These kids have played 30 games and they’ve won a lot of games. We didn’t play like we have been playing, acting like we normally act.”

Krzyzewski didn’t seem worried about having to fix any recurring issues. He said the team just has to get “rejuvenated.”

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Duke’s Grayson Allen, second from left, encourages, left to right, Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval during the Blue Devils' 64-63 loss at Virginia Tech on Feb. 26. Bagley, Trent and Duval are part of the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

4. Virginia Tech packed the paint

Duke is a team that likes to pound the ball inside with Bagley and Carter, two of the best post players in the country. Those players have been good because of their ability to rebound misses and get easy putbacks.

They are also the reason why Duke is the best offensive rebounding team in the country. But on Monday, Virginia Tech did a fairly good job of limiting Bagley and Carter from crashing the offensive glass. The two combined for only five offensive rebounds.

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Duke forward Marvin Bagley III (35) loses the ball as he's double teamed by Virginia Tech guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (4) and teammate forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. (24) in the second half. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Bagley and Carter combined to score only 17 points, on 7-for-14 shooting.

“We got some good looks inside but they just didn’t fall and that led them to get open transition layups on their end,” Bagley said.

Carter said the bigs were not moving enough.

“The paint was cluttered a lot,” Carter said. “So whenever we were making moves, we were making moves into double teams.”

5. Gary Trent Jr. has struggled recently

Trent had only five points on Monday. That follows a seven-point game from him on Feb. 24 in the Blue Devils’ 60-44 win over Syracuse. Trent had been Duke’s hottest player in January and the first half of February. He was shooting over 50 percent from behind the three-point line in ACC play and was averaging 15.1 points per game on the season.

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Duke guard Gary Trent Jr. (2) tries to drive around Virginia Tech forward P.J. Horne (14) in the first half of play. Duke was upset by Virginia Tech 64-63 at Cassell Coliseum, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Blacksburg, Va. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

When Trent is knocking down his shots, Duke is at its best offensively.

But in his last four games, he is averaging only 8.5 points per game, and is shooting 25 percent from the floor.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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