BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)—Duke didn’t want to let the crowd at Cassell Coliseum be in a position to possibly help Virginia Tech down the stretch.
Freshman Kyle Singler scored 10 of his 16 points during an 18-9 run that allowed the fourth-ranked Blue Devils to build on a one-point lead early in the second half and they stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way in an 81-64 victory Thursday night.
“It was important to keep the crowd out of it,” Singler said. “Whenever you’re playing away from home, it’s definitely hostile and a difficult environment.”
Singler made sure he didn’t have to see that side of Blacksburg, even after A.D. Vassallo’s 3-pointer 20 seconds into the second half pulled the Hokies within 42-41.
“We should have carried our momentum,” Hokies freshman guard Hank Thorns said, “but we allowed them to hit us back, and when they hit us, they didn’t stop.”
The Blue Devils (16-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their sixth straight game and for the third time in the past five drama-filled meetings with the Hokies.
Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-3), which has beaten No. 7 Duke in Blacksburg and No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium since joining the ACC, also lost on the Blue Devils’ famous court on a 40-foot heave by Sean Dockery to beat the buzzer in 2005.
This time, Singler and the Blue Devils didn’t let it get that close. The 6-foot-8 forward took charge with an impressive scoring burst in the second half.
“I thought he was playing too much within himself in the first half,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “In the second half, he just came out and he made a couple of plays to start the second half that were huge. They were just huge.”
Singler answered Vassallo’s 3-pointer with one of his own, then had three of the Blue Devils’ next four baskets as they built a 53-45 lead.
When a dunk by J.T. Thompson pulled the Hokies to 53-47, the Blue Devils answered by scoring the next seven points, one on a free throw by Singler after Deron Washington was called for an intentional foul for pushing Singler after a defensive rebound by Duke.
The Hokies never challenged again.
The rally was critical for the young, undersized Blue Devils.
“We’re not this huge, brute team with a big center or anything like that, so guys are going to think that they can push us around,” sophomore Gerald Henderson said.
“But we have a lot of fight in our team.”
Playing without second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Jeff Allen, who is serving a two-game suspension for making contact with a referee at Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Hokies didn’t have enough fight and couldn’t keep up.
“I thought they knocked us back in the second half and we did not respond,” coach Seth Greenberg said.
Said Vassallo: “I guess they had more desire to win than we did.”
Henderson had 12 points and DeMarcus Nelson and Greg Paulus both had 10 for Duke.
Vassallo led Virginia Tech with 16 points, while Thompson had 13 and Washington 12.
The game was rough throughout, and Nelson, Washington and Malcolm Delaney of the Hokies all fouled out. Lance Thomas and Jon Scheyer both had four fouls for Duke.
The Blue Devils built a 27-16 lead by outscoring the Hokies 21-10 over a 9-minute stretch when the Hokies committed five turnovers. Virginia Tech closed within 39-38 with 55 seconds to go in the half. Duke’s Taylor King made it 42-38 at the half with a 27-footer, his third 3-pointer to that point, with 37 seconds left.