By Ben Sullivan
Hunter Cattoor’s 31 points led seventh-seeded Virginia Tech to the ACC title, beating Duke 82-67 to deny Mike Krzyzewski a league title in his final season.
Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said the Hokies were “luckier than hell” after that game.
After beating Duke how did it feel?
“Gratifying,” Young said.
The Hokies became just the second ACC team to take the crown with four wins in four days and lowest-seeded team to win the most-storied conference tournament in college basketball.
They’re also the fourth ACC champion 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 a 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. 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?
“Last weekend the whole word was talking about [my retirement]. 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 [NCAA] 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 outnumbered Hokies fans rose with a roar.
“The next dead ball we went to the huddle and it was like, ‘We can taste it. We can taste it now,'” point guard Storm Murphy said.
The 15-point win was the Hokies’ largest victory over Duke in a series that was first contested in 1912, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
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.
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.COACH
On Saturday night, down three at the 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.
The scolding did not 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.
“I knew when it came together it was going to be a beautiful thing and they came together,” Young said of the Hokies, who went 13-2 down the stretch in ACC action to play their way off the bubble. “I didn’t think it would culminate in this, but we’re not going to give it back.”