Duke outlasts cold Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said his game plan in Friday’s ACC tournament quarterfinal was to make Duke’s Tyler Thornton beat them.

Thornton shot, and shot, and shot. Though he missed 11 of his career-high 16 attempts, he made enough to score a career-high 13 points and lead the Blue Devils to a 60-56 victory at Philips Arena.

“We made some big defensive stops,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but a lot of that had to do with the intensity of the game.”

Thornton’s cold hand wasn’t any different than this team’s. Duke shot only 37 percent, but the Hokies, playing their second game in as many nights, made only 30.2 percent of their attempts.

Duke (27-5), the second seed, will face at 3 p.m. Saturday the winner of Friday’s late game between Florida State and Miami.

“We were offensively challenged, and quite honestly so were they,” Virginia Tech (16-17) coach Seth Greenberg said. “We did what we wanted defensively. Offensively we weren’t really good. That’s the reality.”

With Duke’s front court already short a player because of Ryan Kelly’s sprained right foot, Virginia Tech tried to attack the basket. Though they got Miles Plumlee into foul trouble, the Hokies couldn’t take advantage because they couldn’t shoot.

During a Virginia Tech scoreless stretch that lasted more than six minutes in the second half, Duke scraped together a 10-point lead after a one-handed bank shot by Seth Curry with 8:30 remaining. Greenberg said his team was bothered by the Blue Devils’ switching on defense, which led to his team not being able to finish plays.

Erick Green, who missed 13 of his 16 shots, stopped the Hokies’ slide with two free throws to cut the gap to eight with 5:40 remaining.

After Curry made two free throws, Virginia Tech’s Robert Brown made back-to-back short shots to reduce Duke’s lead to 50-44. The Hokies kept attacking the basket and eventually cut Duke’s lead to four with 1:08 left.

Thornton missed a 3-pointer that Virginia Tech rebounded with 34 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Green drove left, but missed his shot. The rebound ricocheted back down the court as Austin Rivers and two Virginia Tech players chased after it. Rivers picked it up near half-court, made the layup and was fouled by Brown. Rivers made the free throw to give the Blue Devils a 58-51 lead with 16 seconds left.

“We competed really hard, but couldn’t at times rebound the ball with them,” Greenberg said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win, but didn’t make the plays we needed to win.”