DURHAM, N.C. – The 15th-ranked Duke Blue Devils executed at a furious offensive and defensive pace and overwhelmed the 17th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies 84-59 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday.
It was Duke’s most dominating Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) win, and advanced its record to 16-3 overall and 4-2 in league play while handing Virginia Tech (16-2, 3-2) its second league road loss to a ranked opponent.
Lexie Brown led the Blue Devils at both ends of the court, shooting 10-for-16 from the field for 29 points, including three 3s, while claiming three steals.
Rebecca Greenwell and Kyra Lambert followed suit, posting 18 and 10 points respectively to go with a combined five steals between them.
“Just really proud of our team’s defensive intensity and immediacy,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“I thought that Lexie and Kyra were a big part of that energy and playing great position. That was important to get them out of their rhythm and out of flow.”
It was probably the most emotional win for a team that’s struggled recently with road losses against then-No. 6 Florida State and No. 23 N.C. State, but not a surprising one over the Hokies as the Blue Devils won their 23rd straight over them – now 25-2 in the two teams’ series to date.
It was a tall task to ask of Virginia Tech to break Duke’s undefeated streak at home which extended to 11 games.
Double-doubles from Sidney Cook (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Regan Magarity (13 points, 11 rebounds) led the Hokies.
Kendyl Brooks’ 5-of-12 shooting beyond the arc looked to make an impact, but not enough to overcome Duke’s ability to score 23 points off 17 Virginia Tech turnovers.
Duke took advantage of shooting droughts during the second and third quarters by the Hokies.
“Tonight we got beat by a better basketball team,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said.
“They play extremely well. They shot-blocked extremely well.”
Suffocating defensive play kept Virginia Tech’s leading scorer Chanette Hicks to only four points and long-range shooting guard Vanessa Panousis to five.
“We just wanted to come out with defensive intensity – really put pressure on them, ball pressure on the guards,” Lambert said.
“They turned it over and we converted on the opportunities.”
Hicks’ frustration showed when she fouled Brown hard while going to the basket in the third quarter.
After the officials reviewed the play and assessed the Hokies guard with a flagrant foul, both coaches engaged in a brief, animated and somewhat heated discussion that eventually required them to be separated.
“I was extremely concerned the way Lexie got hit,” McCallie said.
“I just didn’t feel that (play) was appropriate, and so we spoke about that.”
Not mincing words like her coach, Brown described the incident with more detail and how it impacted her approach to the basket for the remainder of the game.
“Our plan was to get (No.) 12 out of sorts, and she played that way,” Brown stated.
“The way they were coming after us for our layups – first things first, we want to protect our bodies, we have a long season, we were up by a lot – I wasn’t taught to play that way. I don’t know who taught her to play like that – that’s not how you play basketball. She was going at us crazy the whole game. I’m glad they got her with a flagrant, but it didn’t really change their behavior. I think that only gave us more fuel for that half. That’s the worst thing you can do to me and talk to me in a way that is disrespectful because I’m not that type of person. I’m just gonna put my head down and keep playin’, play for my teammates; they have my back, Coach P has my back, and I really wasn’t worried.”
When asked about her aggressive play during the second half, Hicks said, “I’m not really sure, I just, I don’t know. It just wasn’t my night, I guess.”
Though outrebounded 37-35, the Blue Devils converted on 51-percent shooting (30-59), dropped 7-of-12 from three-point range led by Brown, Greenwell, and Lambert, and finished with a school record 17-of-17 shooting from the free throw line.
“We’re working on the rebounding,” McCallie said.
“It disappoints us to be outrebounded. With Kyra, her poise – calling things and executing – and Lexie had great poise tonight. No turnovers, playing all those minutes with all that attention that she draws – that was really key for us and something we gotta keep going, and can build off of.”
Duke: Lexie Brown – 29 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals; Rebecca Greenwell – 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals; Kyra Lambert – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Virginia Tech: Sydney Cook – 15 points, 12 rebounds; Kendyl Brooks – 15 points, 2 rebounds; Regan Magarity – 13 points, 11 rebounds
Duke 38, Virginia Tech 32
Duke went 15-for-31 including 4-of-8 beyond the arc as Brown tallied 18 points while Virginia Tech kept pace early on, but started to fall behind due to a poor shooting second period.
Cook posted nine points and 10 rebounds to lead the Hokies early on.
The Blue Devils scored 10 points off seven Virginia Tech turnovers
A season-low three turnovers during the opening half for the Blue Devils while forcing the Hokies to go scoreless for a 4:03 span enabled Duke to pull ahead and lead 38-32 by the end of the second quarter.
Virginia Tech went scoreless for another four-plus minute span in the third while the Blue Devils continued to pour it on, outscoring the Hokies by 17 points and leading 70-47 heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
Duke started right from the opening tip as Odom tapped it to Brown who eventually got it back to Odom for the first score of the game.
Both teams moved the ball quickly up the court during the first five minutes.
Duke led 7-6 with six minutes remaining.
Led by Hicks, the Hokies put together two quick productive possessions and led 10-7 at the media timeout.
A three-pointer from Greenwell tied it 12-12.
The ball continued to drop in both baskets with Virginia Tech holding a 21-16 advantage heading into the next quarter.
Brown dropped a quick 3 to pull the Blue Devils within two.
She continued to carry the load on defense and offense stealing the ball and laying it in to pull within one before Kendall Cooper’s short jumper – her first of an eight-point, five-rebound night – put Duke ahead 25-24 at the 6:38 mark.
A long two-pointer from Erin Mathias (4 points, 4 rebounds) and a turnover by the Hokies set Mathias up for a turnaround drop-step to lead by five, 29-24.
A three from Panousis tied it up 29-29 with under five minutes to play.
Two straight steals, first by Brown and then Lambert, converted into baskets, and the Blue Devils were back ahead 33-29 with 2:50 to play.
While Virginia Tech went scoreless from the field for four-plus minutes, the Blue Devils continued to add to their lead.
Lambert’s three from the top-left gave Duke its largest margin up to that point, a six-point advantage.
A jumper from Cook ended the Hokies’ scoring drought as the the Blue Devils led 38-32 at halftime.
Duke fired on all cylinders to start the period, and put together a 9-0 run combined by an 0-for-5 finish from Virginia Tech.
A three from Brown extended the Blue Devils lead to 50-32.
Steals and points off turnovers soon had Duke ahead by 22 points with 5:58 remaining.
Cook scored the Hokies’ first points after five minutes of five missed attempts and three turnovers that enabled Duke to establish such a commanding lead.
Tensions mounted after two straight fouls on Duke following turnovers resulted in a flagrant foul assessed to Hicks.
With two free throws to Brown, the lead lengthened further to 65-36.
Two consecutive 3s from Brooks tried to continue a short Tech rally, but the Blue Devils matched scores and led 70-47 heading into the final quarter.
Brooks put up her third three-pointer, but it wasn’t enough to match Duke’s output from the field and the free throw line led by Cooper, Odom, and Greenwell.
The Blue Devils led 76-52 with seven minutes remaining.
Magarity showed some strength in rebounding and laying one in for the Hokies.
However, it was a chase game that the visitors continued to play, and with little ground made up from it.
Trailing by 22, Virginia Tech tried to lengthen its defense to slow the Duke attack.
For a minute it worked, but shooting woes continued to plague the Hokies.
While missing three straight shot attempts, the Blue Devils scored six more points and led 84-57 with 2:12 remaining.
There wasn’t much Virginia Tech could do as Duke held on and capped off its biggest margin of victory in league play to date.