DURHAM, N.C. — When the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team played Duke back in December, the Hokies led at halftime before losing by double digits.
The Hokies lost Saturday’s rematch by double digits, too. And this time, Tech trailed by 26 points at halftime.
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils cruised past Virginia Tech 88-64 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“They blitzed us early and often,” Tech coach Mike Young said. “They were just flat-out better than my team on this particular evening.”
The Hokies (15-12, 6-10 ACC) trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half. Duke (23-4, 13-3) led from the opening basket.
Cassius Stanley had 21 points for Duke. He was 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Duke’s 6-foot-10 freshman center, Vernon Carey Jr., had 16 points and nine rebounds.
The Blue Devils led 51-25 at halftime. It was the second-biggest halftime deficit for Tech in any game since the Hokies joined the ACC.
“We have no choice but to guard them the way we guarded them. And some of you may be scratching your heads, thinking that I made a mistake,” Young said.
“Who in the world can play Carey one on one? And I’m trying to do it with … [P.J. Horne], but he’s not very big. So we’ve got to constrict the floor. It’s what we did in Blacksburg, and worked out very, very well for us. Now, [Carey’s] seen a lot of different defensive looks and a lot of different traps from different angles [since then].”
Duke beat Tech 77-63 on Dec. 6. In that game, the Hokies led 41-38 at halftime.
Young said Tech had better offensive possessions in the first half of that game.
“They were quicker [this time],” Young said of the Blue Devils. “They just knocked us out of everything we wanted to do.”
Carey had trouble chasing Horne in the first meeting. Horne had 10 points in the first half of that game, so Krzyzewski did not play Carey much in the second half of that game.
This time, Horne had no points.
“We weren’t ready to play a five-out [team in December],” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the perimeter-oriented Hokies. “We’ve played now against five out. Vernon’s played really well.”
Krzyzewski said his team was better prepared for Tech than the first meeting.
“We had preparation time. The last time we played, we went there after playing a 9:30 Tuesday game against Michigan State and coming back at 4:30 in the morning on Wednesday and traveling [to Tech] on Thursday,” Krzyzewski said. “For [the Hokies], you need preparation time.”
The Blue Devils were 11 of 26 from 3-point range (42.3%), including 8 of 15 in the first half.
Tech shot just 37.3% from the field, including 29% in the first half.
Young said Duke’s length was a problem for Tech’s shooters.
“They’re just so aggressive,” Young said. “The ball pressure speeds you up and speeds you into some uncomfortable situations.
“The one-pass possessions, a bit of fool’s gold. It might look like a pretty good shot, but you’ve got to get it down. If you don’t get it down, here they come at you again.”
Tech redshirt freshman Landers Nolley II’s shooting woes continued. He was 1 of 8 from the field.
What can Young do to get him out of his slump?
“Just stay in the gym with him,” Young said. “Basketball players go through little cycles like this.”
Matthew Hurt tallied 16 points for Duke, while Tre Jones had 14 points.
Duke jumped to an 11-2 lead with 17:01 left in the first half.
The lead grew to 28-14 with 11:35 left in the first half. Duke was 5 of 6 from 3-point range at that point.
The cushion grew to 37-16 with 7:28 to go in the first half. Duke was shooting 61.9% from the field at that point.
Tyrece Radford had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Hokies.