Duke looks to bounce back at Virginia Tech
Getting over a loss is one thing.
Doing so while dealing with the nation’s most prolific scorer also is part of the challenge for No. 6 Duke.
The Blue Devils, having lost at Maryland 83-81 on Saturday night to fall out of the top five in the Associated Press rankings, play Virginia Tech tonight (9 p.m., ESPN) at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
Facing the Hokies means dealing with Erick Green, the Virginia Tech senior guard who averages a Division I-leading 25.3 points per game. Green scored 29 points on Saturday when Virginia Tech (11-14, 2-10 ACC) lost at N.C. State 90-86 in overtime.
Duke (22-3, 9-3) finds itself three games behind league-leading Miami (22-3, 13-0).
The Hokies are in last place in the ACC standings and have lost eight games in row. But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Green will have plenty of his team’s attention tonight.
“He’s a terrific player and young man,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, he’s a scoring machine. As a result of his ability to score, he creates opportunities for his teammates to score because he draws so much attention. And to draw that attention and still score the way he does is remarkable.
“He can break you down, ... he can knock down the 3, but he can also get to the foul line. He’s just a terrific player. He’s one of the best players in the country.”
Green has scored at least 20 points in 23 of Virginia Tech’s 25 games. He scored 35 points, the most by an ACC player this season, on Jan. 24 when the Hokies lost 74-58 at home to Virginia.
Krzyzewski said it’s important for Duke to slow Green in one area of his game. He’s adept at scoring with 3-pointers, driving to the basket or drawing a foul and hitting free throws.
Green has made 80 percent of his free throws in his career. He is shooting 47.3 percent from the field this season, including 38 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Virginia Tech’s problem, though, is that none of its other starting players are averaging double figures in scoring.
Duke is coming off a disappointing loss where it rallied from 10 points down in the final four minutes to tie the game. But Maryland’s Seth Allen sank two free throws with two seconds to play to provide the winning margin for the Terrapins.
Duke senior center Mason Plumlee, averaging 17.6 points and 10.8 rebounds, had his least productive outing of the season at Maryland. He scored four points and grabbed three rebounds before fouling out in the game’s final minute.
Krzyzewski said senior forward Ryan Kelly’s foot injury, which has kept him out since Jan. 8, has put added pressure on Plumlee inside. He simply wasn’t up to the task at Maryland.
“I do think that you get worn down a little bit, especially since Ryan’s been out, because there’s even been more pressure on him to keep the ship afloat so to speak,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s just had a great year, and sometimes those things happen, like Saturday.
“Maryland had something to do with it, they played really well, and you could tell Mason just wasn’t at his best. The combination of that, you know, proved to be something that we could not overcome and get a victory.”