NEW YORK — For the second time in seven days, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was denied a seminal moment in the twilight of his coaching career.
After rival North Carolina spoiled his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium last Saturday, it was upstart Virginia Tech that knocked off the Blue Devils in Coach K’s final appearance in the ACC Tournament in the final Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Playing their fourth game in four days, the seventh-seeded Hokies (23-12) clinched a berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament with a stunning 82-67 win over top-seeded Duke behind a blistering offensive performance from Hunter Cattoor.
The junior guard hit his first six 3-point shots on the way to a career-high 31 points as the Hokies return to Blacksburg with an ACC Tournament title in their first championship appearance. Virginia Tech becomes the lowest seed to win the tournament.
“I think they’re the team they thought they were going to be,” Coach K said postgame. “We couldn’t stop them. He (Cattoor) had a Klay Thompson kind of night.”
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The loss for Duke adds an unfortunate footnote in a long chapter of dominance in the ACC Tournament for Krzyzewski, who fell short of his 16th title ahead of his retirement at the conclusion of this season.
Krzyzewski finishes with a 15-7 record in ACC title games — he went 1-1 in Brooklyn finals with a win in 2017 — passing legendary UNC coach Dean Smith (21) for the most championship appearances in league history.
“I’m proud of the way we played this week. Obviously, we’re disappointed we lost in the championship but that doesn’t define how well we played this whole week,” Coach K said.
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Duke (28-6), which defeated Syracuse and Miami on the road to the final, entered the evening with an outside shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but will likely settle for a second or third seed after the loss.
The Hokies’ remarkable run through the ACC field began Wednesday with a last-second win over No. 10 Clemson. They upset No. 2 Notre Dame on Wednesday before dominating No. 3 UNC in Friday’s semifinal.
“These guys have earned the right,” Coach K said motioning to his team. “And the team we played was not sure if they made the tournament because of all the prognosticators. They punched their ticket vehemently tonight, and God bless them, they deserve it.”
Virginia Tech led 42-39 at halftime — the Hokies also held a slight advantage in their first and only game against Duke on Dec. 22 — behind 17 points from Cattoor and a 3-point barrage that gave the Hokies a seven-point edge late in the first half.
They made 7 of 10 from beyond the arc with Cattoor hitting all four of his attempts. Duke was led by Paolo Banchero’s 10 points but failed to use a notable size advantage in the post. The Blue Devils finished the half with one offensive rebound but were able to convert on 7 of 8 free-throw attempts.
Banchero finished the night with a team-high 20 points while Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma added 19.
Coach K pulled his starters with 1:14 left in the game, allowing his grandson, Michael Savarino, to take the court with other Duke reserves and play out the loss.
“We move on to the next one,” Duke’s Wendell Moore said after the loss. “Tomorrow we’re going to see where we’re seeded at and then we just go from there. We get a couple of days of good practice in order to prep for who we have. We’ve got to forget about this one. The game is already over.”
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.