Duke-Virginia Tech Preview
By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- Mike Krzyzewski was furious after watching Duke go through the motions and nearly squander a 20-point, second-half lead in its latest victory.
Although his team seemingly has a good chance to respond with a convincing win as it faces an inferior ACC foe, Virginia Tech did upset the then-No. 1 Blue Devils in Blacksburg last season.
Seventh-ranked Duke looks to regroup and send the Hokies to a seventh loss in eight games Thursday night at Cassell Coliseum.
The Blue Devils (18-3, 5-1) took a break from conference play Saturday to host St. John's, and seemed well on their way to victory while leading 60-40 with just over 13 minutes remaining.
However, Duke suddenly got sloppy. It was outrebounded 15-8 while committing six turnovers in the final 10 minutes. The Red Storm pulled within four points with 20 seconds to play, but free throws by Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton helped the Blue Devils hang on for an 83-76 victory.
"To me, it was a loss," Krzyzewski said. "We did enough to win, which almost makes me sick to say. I hate saying that we did enough to win. I mean, that's not who I am and not who this program is. You don't do 'enough to win.' We play really good basketball, and then hopefully we win. But that's the story. ... I'm not pleased one bit. One bit."
Duke will have to be wary of a similar letdown against Virginia Tech, which nearly pulled off an impressive comeback of its own over the weekend.
In a 73-69 loss to Maryland on Saturday, the Hokies (12-9, 1-5) stormed back from a 15-point, second-half deficit to pull within two on Robert Brown's 3-pointer with five seconds remaining.
Although the Hokies fell for the sixth time in seven games, coach Seth Greenberg was encouraged by the way his team recovered from an awful first 20 minutes. Virginia Tech shot 6 of 25 in the first half and finished with 19 points, a season low in any half.
"I don't think we're that far off," Greenberg said. "I think we're a pretty good team. Not a great team, but pretty good. We've got to get a greater sense of urgency for all 40 minutes."
His team played that way in a 64-60 home victory over top-ranked Duke last February, its lone win in the last six meetings. The Blue Devils avenged that defeat with a 77-63 victory in the ACC tournament semifinals.
Both programs have undergone significant roster changes from a year ago, with Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler departing from Duke and Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen gone from Virginia Tech.
Erick Green returns for the Hokies after combining for 29 points in the two games against the Blue Devils last season. The junior is averaging a team-best 15.9 points.
Austin Rivers was still playing high school basketball a year ago but is now scoring a team-best 14.1 points per game for Krzyzewski, one of five Duke players averaging in double digits in scoring.
Kelly and Mason Plumlee also have established a physical presence in the paint after being role players last season. Kelly is averaging 12.7 points while Plumlee is averaging 12.0 and 9.8 rebounds, second-best in the ACC.
Duke is averaging 80.3 points, second-best in the conference, but the sudden shooting struggles of Seth Curry is slightly concerning. The junior guard is shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from 3-point range (6 of 29) in six league games.
Regaining his shooting touch could be difficult against Virginia Tech, which ranks near the top of the ACC in scoring defense (61.1) and defensive field-goal percentage (39.6).
Updated February 1, 2012