Virginia Tech vs Duke

Duke survives Va. Tech, advances


ATLANTA -- Tyler Thornton kept finding himself open, so he kept shooting.

Fortunately for Duke, he made enough of them to fend off a one-and-done for the perennial champs of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Thornton scored a career-best 13 points and Austin Rivers hustled for a clinching three-point play that carried the sixth-ranked Blue Devils to a 60-56 victory over cold-shooting Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals Friday night.

It wasn't pretty.

It was good enough to keep Duke (27-5) in the hunt for its fourth straight tournament title and 11th in 14 years.

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"I don't try to coach stats," Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I try to coach wins. Our kids have a lot of heart."

They certainly have a knack of winning at this tournament, no matter how well they play, making it 10 straight victories since their last loss in the 2008 semifinals. Even with a key member of their rotation, forward Ryan Kelly, sitting out the trip to Atlanta because of a sprained right foot, Duke advanced to face No. 17 Florida State or Miami on Saturday.

And, of course, the Blue Devils would like another crack at their most bitter rival, No. 4 North Carolina, in Sunday's final.

"These kids are pretty resilient," Krzyzewski said. "We try to hang in there."

While Thornton, averaging just 3.7 points a game, provided the unexpected offense, Rivers came up with the biggest play of the game. The Hokies trailed 55-51 and were looking to make it a one-possession game when Erick Green drove toward the lane and put up a one-hander. It ricocheted off the rim - appropriate for Virginia Tech on this night - and Miles Plumlee got a hand on the ball, swatting it toward midcourt.

Four players took off after it, two from each team. Rivers, the freshman son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, got there first, scooped it up and kept right on going. He made the layup, drew a foul on Robert Brown and knocked down the free throw with 15.1 seconds remaining.

"That's the first sprint I've seen Austin win this year," Krzyzewski joked. "I should've known better. I need to put a ball out in front of him, where he thinks he might score, when we do our sprints. Then he might win a few more."

Duke went down to the wire with the 10th-seeded team, even though the Hokies (16-17) struggled through more than 8 minutes without making a field goal in the second half. Rivers scored 17 points and Mason Plumlee chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Thornton, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, had not attempted more than six shots in a game all season. He put it up a staggering 16 times - all but three of them from beyond the 3-point arc. Three of those went down, and Duke needed every one to hold off the feisty Hokies.

"I had open shots," Thornton said. "I was going to take them."

That was Virginia Tech's plan all along. It didn't work out.

"We wanted to make Tyler Thornton beat us, plain and simple," Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said.

It was amazing Virginia Tech hung around as long as it did, considering the Hokies made only 16 of 53 shots and needed a late flourish just to nudge their average above 30 percent. After Green's jumper with 13:14 remaining, Virginia Tech didn't score again until Brown hit a short fallaway jumper with 4:53 left to make it 50-42.

"Offensively, we weren't very good. That's just the reality," Greenberg said. "We had opportunities. We just didn't finish."

The Hokies' frustration was epitomized by a stretch near the end of their drought. Brown pulled up for a little 10-foot bank shot that wasn't even close, the ball clanking off the side of the rim as his shoulders slumped. The Hokies hustled for the offensive rebound, setting up Green for a drive to the hoop. The ball spun all the way around the iron - and out.

Green broke into a frustrated smile as he headed back up the court, seeming to sense that nothing was going to go on this night.

Brown and Green led the Hokies with 16 points apiece, but Green made only 3-of-16 shots. He did most of his damage at the foul line, going 9-for-9.

"We couldn't capitalize in the lane like we needed to," said Dorenzo Hudson, held to 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting. "I felt like we needed just that one burst to get us over the hump."

It never came, so Duke is moving on despite a 37-percent shooting night.

"I'm really proud of our team," River said. "We didn't shoot the ball well, but we didn't let that dictate our defense. I think we've learned in that area."

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Tyler Thornton scores a career-best 13 points to lead Duke to a 60-56 victory over cold-shooting  Virginia Tech. (Getty Images)
Tyler Thornton scores a career-best 13 points to lead Duke to a 60-56 victory over cold-shooting Virginia Tech. (Getty Images)
Virginia Tech (16-17)263056
Duke #6 (27-5) «312960
VATECH:E. Green 16 Pts
VATECH:D. Finney-Smith 12 Reb
VATECH:E. Green 2 Ast
DUKE:A. Rivers 17 Pts
DUKE:M. Plumlee 10 Reb
DUKE:S. Curry 5 Ast

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Virginia TechDuke
Erick Green
Austin Rivers
Virginia Tech Hokies
E. Green, G393-169-942116
D. Finney-Smith, F372-71-212227
D. Hudson, G323-90-04046
C. Raines, F301-64-65036
J. Eddie, G-F221-32-21225
R. Brown, G226-92-360116
C. Barksdale, F120-30-02020
M. Rankin, G60-00-00140
A. Chaney, FDid Not Play
V. Davila, FDid Not Play
E. Sorenson, GDid Not Play
J. Van Zegeren, FDid Not Play
W. Johnston, GDid Not Play
J. Racer, GDid Not Play
Totals 16-5318-223471956
Duke Blue Devils
A. Rivers, G405-146-852417
M. Plumlee, F374-64-5100312
S. Curry, G352-64-46519
T. Thornton, G355-160-042213
M. Plumlee, F211-21-13033
J. Hairston, F162-30-03134
A. Dawkins, G140-50-03010
Q. Cook, G21-20-00012
R. Kelly, FDid Not Play
T. Zafirovski, FDid Not Play
M. Gbinije, G-FDid Not Play
A. Murphy, FDid Not Play
M. Plumlee, FDid Not Play
Totals 20-5415-1834101860
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
NC State0-04-0152
Florida St.0-03-08
Miami (Fla.)0-03-0124
Notre Dame0-03-0131
N. Carolina0-02-037
Boston College0-04-1195
Va. Tech0-03-1202
Georgia Tech0-01-1152
Wake Forest0-01-4331
Other games
UMass 77 Final
Temple 71
Iowa 75 Final
Mich St 92
MD 69 Final
NC 85
LSU 51 Final
Kentucky 60
Indiana 71 Final
Wisc 79
Alabama 63 Final
Florida 66
Minn 69 Final
Michigan 73
Cincinnati 71 Final
Syracuse 68
Baylor 81 Final
Kansas 72
Purdue 71 Final
Ohio St 88
Colo St 69 Final
Miami-FL 71 Final
Florida St 82
Louisville 64 Final
ND 50
Texas 67 Final
Missouri 81
N Mexico 72 Final