DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Virginia Tech had its heart broken in this situation before, clinging to a slim lead in the final moments at hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Last year, Duke’s Sean Dockery crushed the Hokies’ spirit with a 40-footer at the buzzer. As the seconds ticked away Saturday, it looked like it would be Greg Paulus’ turn.
“For a second, I thought it was going to happen again,” Virginia Tech forward Deron Washington said. “Then I thought, ‘There’s no way. We can’t lose this game again.’ We had to try to get this win somehow.”
That’s when Washington did something.
He blocked Paulus’ 3-point shot as time expired in overtime, ensuring there would be no last-second heroics for No. 5 Duke and sealing the Hokies’ 69-67 upset of the Blue Devils.
“It beats the end of the game last year,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.
Jamon Gordon gave Virginia Tech (11-4, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) the lead for good with 31 seconds left in overtime. After a timeout, the Hokies worked the ball to Gordon and he slashed to the basket and floated a shot over the Duke defense for a 68-67 lead.
“I knew I had to shoot it high,” Gordon said. “I just shot it up. Thank God it dropped.”
David McClure missed an 18-footer on Duke’s next possession, and the Blue Devils (13-2, 0-1) were forced to foul A.D. Vassallo with 7.5 seconds left. He made the first free throw, but missed the second.
After a sloppy trip up the court, Washington blocked Paulus’ shot at the buzzer, sealing the Hokies’ biggest win in years and giving them redemption for their last-second defeat here last season.
“They’ve seen (the replays) 8,000 times,” Greenberg said. “It wasn’t a revenge factor. Our revenge factor is more two years ago, rather than last year. I know it sounds silly, but two years ago there wasn’t any respect for our basketball program. That was more painful than last year was.”
Greenberg was referring to the 100-65 loss in the Hokies’ first visit to Cameron as a member of the ACC.
That wasn’t the first time in this game Washington and Paulus encountered one another, either. Washington generated one of the season’s more memorable highlights by hurdling the 6-foot-1 point guard for a layup to give the Hokies a 62-59 lead with 3 minutes left in regulation.
Zabian Dowdell had 20 points to lead the Hokies, who became just the fourth unranked team since 1998 to beat Duke at Cameron.
DeMarcus Nelson had 22 points for the Blue Devils, who had a nine-game winning streak snapped, while Josh McRoberts had 16 points and 10 rebounds after a miserable first half in which he was 0-for-3 from the field with three points.
“They deserve it. We didn’t deserve to win,” McRoberts said. “We played the worst we could’ve played.”
Gordon finished with 17 points and Washington and Coleman Collins each had 11 for the Hokies, who snapped a seven-game losing streak to ranked teams. The last Top 25 team they beat was Duke, when the then-No. 7 Blue Devils lost in Blacksburg in February 2005.
“Last year, a lot of people said Duke just played around and Virginia Tech almost beat them,” Gordon said. “All the stuff we went through, not too many teams could have went through the stuff that we went through and play as hard as we did every game.”
Jon Scheyer had 12 points and Gerald Henderson added 10 for Duke. Paulus— who entered averaging 8.1 points per game—was held scoreless and was criticized by his coach for his shot selection with his team down two points in the game’s final moments.
“You have to know time and score,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “If you’re down by three, you’re going to take a 3. … You have to drive hoping you get two points, and we didn’t do that.”
Virginia Tech dominated Duke for much of regulation, but the Blue Devils forced overtime when Nelson’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left tied it at 64. The Hokies inbounded the ball and worked it to Dowdell, whose 18-footer from the wing missed as time expired.
The Hokies had almost the entire team back from the one that lost the heartbreaker at Duke last season when they led by one point with 1.6 seconds left only to see the Blue Devils win 77-75 on Dockery’s miracle shot.
“We deserved more to win last year than we did this year,” Krzyzewski said. “We played a lot better (last time) than we did this year.”