7th-seed Virginia Tech upsets Duke, Coach K for ACC title
For the second straight Saturday night, Duke failed to deliver Coach K a send-off victory.
This time it was Virginia Tech playing party pooper.
Hunter Cattoor scored a career-high 31 points and the seventh-seeded Hokies won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament for the first time, beating Duke 82-67 to deny Mike Krzyzewski a league title in his final season.
Virginia Tech (23-12) came to Brooklyn in need of a run to make the NCAA Tournament, and the Hokies became just the second ACC to take the crown with four wins in four days.
The Hokies also are the worst-seeded team to win the most-storied conference tournament in college basketball, and the fourth to win the title by beating the top-three seeds.
Duke lost Coach K's final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium to rival North Carolina a week ago, derailing what the school hoped would be a joyful celebration of the winningest coach in Division I men's college basketball.
The top-seeded and seventh-ranked Blue Devils (28-6) got another chance for a feel-good victory and to add at least one more trophy to the case for the retiring Hall of Famer, but again it was not to be.
"I tell them all the time don't worry about me," Krzyzewski said. "Even in a moment of defeat I want to be there with them. How do we use it? how do we get better?
He added: "Last weekend the whole word was talking about it. So it was a very difficult weekend. What we've tried to do is eliminate everything. These are young guys. I've loved coaching them. I think we can be good in the tournament. I was really positive with them afterwards."
When Justyn Mutts made a two-hand slam over Duke's star freshman Paolo Banchero with 2:26 left in the second half, Virginia Tech led 76-64 and the Hokies fans rose with roar.
Virginia Tech's first ACC championship since joining the conference in 2004 was sealed.
Soon after Metallica's "Enter Sandman," the Hokies' unofficially fight song, blared throughout Barclays Center and the Virginia Tech fans sung along like it was the fourth quarter at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Banchero scored 20 points for Duke, which shot 4 for 20 from 3-point range and allowed the Hokies to make 50% of their shots.
Virginia Tech's last — and only — conference tournament championship came in 1979 when the Hokies were in the Metro Conference.
Hokies coach Mike Young led his teams to five Southern Conference Tournament titles in 17 seasons at Wofford. It only took him three season to get his first with Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Krzyzewski was denied his 16th ACC title in his 42nd season.
Barclays Center is a long way from Cameron, both literally and figuratively, but the Duke fans did their best to make it feel like a Blue Devils' home game.
But nothing came easy for Duke this week in Brooklyn.
Duke didn't have a halftime lead in any of the games at Barclays Center.
On Saturday night, down three at half, Duke began the second half with a sloppy turnover on offense and then gave up a driving layup.
Krzyzewski called a timeout 35 seconds into the half and laid into his team, getting out of his chair to demonstrate the movement he wanted to see from his players.
It did not immediately have the desired result. Cattoor swished his sixth 3 and then made a steal on the other end that he turned into old-fashioned three-point play with a driving layup.
That put the Hokies up 55-45 less than five minutes into the half.
Duke didn't fold, but every time the Blue Devils applied pressure, the Hokies responded.
A 3 by Wendell Moore cut the lead to 59-54, but Justyn Mutts backed down Mark Williams for a bucket while drawing the fourth foul on Duke's big man the next time down.
Duke trimmed the lead to six and the partisan crowd again tried to lift the Blue Devils with a defense chant, but Storm Murphy made a sharp pass to Darius Maddox underneath for a layup that beat the shot clock by a second.
When Cattoor made his seventh 3 from the top of the arc with 6:05 to play, the Hokies went up 70-60 and it became apparent this was Virginia Tech's night to celebrate.
Cattoor was 7 for 9 from 3-point range, 11 for 16 overall, doing huge damage despite rarely having the ball in his hands.
Krzyzewski praised the way the junior moves without the ball. "He had a Klay Thompson night," he said.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were 2-7 at one point in ACC play, but finished with a kick, going 13-2 to play their way off the bubble.
Duke: Krzyzewski came into the tournament worrying about his team's defense and then they played three shaky games on that end in Brooklyn. He still believes there is time to turn it around on that end.
"Very confident because we'll be able to practice," Krzyzewski said, noting the youthful Blue Devils had only one practice since the North Carolina game.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies are in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season.
Duke: The Blue Devils are probably looking at a No. 3 seed when the bracket is set Sunday.