First year Virginia Tech Hokies coach Buzz Williams continues to grow his brand of basketball in Blacksburg, and they came close to a big win over a ranked Duke team.
This has been an often-trying season for the Hokies who are now 10-18 on the year. However, the Hokies have seemingly continued to improve and play beyond their talent levels. While not reflected in the standings, the Hokies have quietly evolved into a team that plays hard and is no longer a pushover in the dominant Atlantic Coast Conference.
The next step for the Hokie program will be increasing the overall level of talent available in Blacksburg. Recruiting in the ACC will always be an uphill battle for the Hokies, but it will be substantially easier if they can continue to put forth the kind of effort they did on Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
The undersized Hokies knew that would have excel behind the arc to have a chance against one of the best teams in the country. Most mock brackets had Duke projected to be a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and the Blue Devils came into the game ranked fourth in the country. The Hokies hit 12 three-pointeres in the game to make up for their severe height disadvantage against Duke.
Another big factor in the game came on the boards. Due to the Hokies’ height deficiency with no starter taller than 6’7″, they have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. They rank dead last this year in rebounding in the ACC, losing the battle of boards by nearly 12 a game. On Wednesday night, however, they held their own. Duke managed only five more rebounds than Virginia Tech.
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Duke’s Jahil Okafor may very well be the number one pick in the NBA draft this spring, and he led all scorers with 30 points. However, he missed two crucial free throws with less than 30 seconds left in the game facing a howling Hokie student section. This allowed the Hokies to get a chance at the game winning shot. Unfortunately, Jalen Hudson was unable to convert off the dribble and the game headed for bonus basketball.
In overtime, the Blue Devils were finally able to dictate the tempo of the game and play their brand of basketball as the Hokies wore down. The Hokies lone big man, Satchel Pierce fouled out and from that point on, they had no answer for Okafor. Duke then cruised through the second half of the extra frame to the victory. Hudson led five Hokies in double figures with 23 points.
Next, up for the Hokies is in state rival number two ranked Virginia on Saturday.