Singler, Smith lead No. 6 Duke past Va Tech 67-55
By JOEDY McCREARY,
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) The “Big Three” kept things clicking for No. 6 Duke. They had to, because they got virtually no scoring help from their teammates.
Kyle Singler had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Nolan Smith added 23 points to help the Blue Devils pull away in a 67-55 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday night.
Jon Scheyer had 15 points for Duke (23-4, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which got only four points from the other six players who saw the court and flirted with their worst shooting performance of the season.
Still, they came up with a late 14-4 run to overcome their only deficit of the second half and earn their sixth straight victory. Duke strengthened its grip on first place in the league standings and keep itself on track for another high seed in the NCAA tournament.
To coach Mike Krzyzewski, nothing else matters.
“I’d like to have other people score – that’s an obvious thing – but what I want to do is win, and not let (a lack of) scoring impact in a negative way … our defense and rebounding,” Krzyzewski said. “One of these games, we’re just going to break out. … Those three players are really good. As long as they keep playing well, you’ve got to go with what you’ve got, right?”
Malcolm Delaney, the ACC’s leading scorer, finished with 19 points for Virginia Tech (21-5, 8-4), which fell to 1-17 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. His 3-pointer capped a 13-5 run and put the Hokies up 45-44 with 9:55 left.
Smith followed with a three-point play roughly 30 seconds later and scored seven points during the decisive burst that followed. Scheyer finished the spurt with a 3 that made it 60-49 with 4:15 to play. Tech didn’t get closer than six after that.
“Our kids competed at a high level, but that’s not what we came here for,” Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said. “We’re at the stage of our program now where being competitive is not good enough. It’s about winning, and playing to win.”
Outside of the Singler-Smith-Scheyer trio, the only other Duke players to score were Miles Plumlee, who hit a free throw with 13:29 left in the first half, and 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek, who converted a critical three-point play with 7:12 to play.
“Nothing really needs to change. Guys are going to get shots,” Singler said. “But it’s just kind of how it happened tonight.”
Zoubek finished with 16 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who ran their winning streak at Cameron to 17. They’re 15-0 here this season, with 14 wins coming by double figures and 11 by at least 20 points.
This one featured the ACC’s top two scorers, with Delaney averaging roughly 20 points and Scheyer scoring 19 per game. But both players had trouble hitting with consistency in a physical game marked by rough defense.
In what Krzyzewski called “an overall decent performance against Delaney,” the Tech guard shot just 5 of 19 and missed nine of his first 10 attempts for the Hokies, who were 2 for 15 from 3-point range.
Scheyer was 4 for 19 for the Blue Devils, who shot 29 percent. Had Smith and Singler not swished 3s in the final minute, they would have finished worse than their 28-percent outing three months ago against Connecticut.
“Our offense, at times, hasn’t been good this year, and the one thing we do know is that we’re not an unbelievable offensive team where we’re just going to put 90 points up,” Scheyer said. “We know we need to do it with our defense. That’s OK if, at times, our offense isn’t going well because we rely on our defense.”
Dorenzo Hudson added 12 points for the Hokies, who had their five-game ACC winning streak snapped, a run that was their longest since joining the league. They were trying to beat North Carolina and Duke in the same season for the first time since 2007 – also the last time they reached the NCAA tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Hudson said. “We just didn’t make the shots we needed to.”
Both teams entered this one with more than 20 wins, but they got there in vastly different ways. One online replication of the RPI formula determined that the Blue Devils played the nation’s third-toughest schedule while Tech’s was at No. 152.
The way the Hokies kept attacking Duke, that didn’t seem to matter.
The Blue Devils’ offense came almost exclusively from Scheyer, Singler and Smith, who combined for all but one of the team’s 35 first-half points, with each cracking double figures by halftime.
“Honestly, we’ve showed this year that we can shoot bad. It’s going to happen,” Smith said. “Most years, we might lose those games. We might let that affect our defense or rebounding. But now, we’re not letting that happen.”
Updated February 21, 2010