Duke Blue Devils handed fourth defeat of the season by Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech beat Duke 77-72 Tuesday to hand the Blue Devils their fourth loss of the season. Duke, of course, is still playing without Zion Williamson, the presumed national player of the year.

The Hokies are shorthanded also though. Justin Robinson, who is arguably Virginia Tech’s best player, has been out for around a month.

Duke is still a No. 1 seed after the loss, but no longer the overall No. 1. That honor now goes to Virginia. The Cavaliers have lost only to Duke. But have done so twice. Gonzaga, the only team to beat Duke at full strength, is now No. 2 overall because of the Bulldogs strength of schedule and losses to Tennessee and North Carolina. The Blue Devils slot into the third spot, ahead of Kentucky.

Duke has lost three of its four games without at least one starter available to them. That gets some consideration. But losses are still losses. They are not ignored as if the game wasn’t played, and there is absolutely no assumption that the games would have been won if Duke had been at full strength.

The way No. 20 Virginia Tech executed Tuesday, even Zion Williamson might not have made a difference.

Outlaw hit his big shot with 1:28 left and the Hokies beat No. 3 Duke 77-72 on a night when Williamson, the Blue Devils’ star freshman, watched in street clothes for the second straight game because of a sprained right knee.

Bede pulled three defenders toward him as he powered toward the basket, leaving Outlaw completely uncovered.

Kelly Blackshear Jr. had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Ahmed Hill scored 17 points for Virginia Tech (22-6, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), which beat Duke at Cassell Coliseum for the third straight time. The Blue Devils (24-4, 12-3) had been the only team in the country yet to lose on the road this season, but Duke hasn’t won at Virginia Tech since Feb. 25, 2015.

“They didn’t lose tonight,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his team. “Virginia Tech won. There’s a big difference.”

RJ Barrett scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Devils from dropping out of a first-place tie with No. 2 Virginia and No. 5 North Carolina in the ACC. Cam Reddish added 17 points as Duke dropped its second in three games, including an 88-72 loss to UNC when Williamson was injured in the opening minute Feb. 20.

“Today they got the better of us,” Barrett said.

Krzyzewski said Barrett was sick the entire first half, and “for him to play that way in the second half was remarkable.”

The Hokies seemed to have taken control with a 9-2 run to open a 68-61 lead with 4:32 to play, but two free throws by Barrett sparked a 9-2 run for the Blue Devils to knot it at 70 with 1:51 to play. Outlaw’s 3 from the right wing followed, and after Reddish missed at the other end, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was fouled and made both free throws for the Hokies. Alexander-Walker had 13 points and six assists.

Tre Jones scored with 12 seconds left, but Blackshear made a pair of free throws with 11.4 seconds left to clinch it.

The Blue Devils are back at home against Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Peace,

Burke

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