ATLANTA -- Reaction from Duke's 60-56 win over Virginia Tech in an ACC tournament quarterfinal game.
Overview: Duke's coaches told sophomore guard Tyler Thornton to take the shot if he was left open. So he did Friday -- again and again and again.
Thornton scored a career-high 13 points -- on 5-for-16 shooting -- as the top-ranked Blue Devils beat Virginia Tech to advance to the semi-finals of the ACC tournament.
With junior forward Ryan Kelly out for the ACC tournament after spraining his right foot during Tuesday’s practice, and guards Seth Curry (2-for-6) and Andre Dawkins (0-for-5) struggling to hit shots, Thornton’s points were key.
But in addition, the defensive-minded sophomore was active all over the court, also finishing with four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
"We knew it was going to be a possession-by-possession game,'' Thornton said. "We knew we were going to have to fight on every possession."
Both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the field.
"I'm really proud of our team because we didn't shoot the ball well, but we didn't let that dictate our defense,'' freshman Austin Rivers said. "I think we've learned in that area."
Turning point: With just more than a minute left, Virginia Tech’s Robert Brown cut his team’s deficit to 55-51 (but missed a foul shot to convert a 3-point play). After the teams traded misses, Rivers scored in transition and made it a three-point play with a free throw with 15.1 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a seven-point cushion. It was enough.
Player of the game: Thornton was key, but so was Rivers, who led the Blue Devils with 17 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Key stat: It marked the 10th ACC game this season the Hokies have lost by five or fewer points.
Miscellaneous: Tech said it needed to rebound, limit turnovers and finish to have a chance to win. In the end, Virginia Tech held a slight edge on the boards (38-37), but the Hokies committed 10 turnovers and missed too many easy baskets. They made 50 percent of their 3-pointers, but made only 30.2 percent of their shots overall.
What’s next: Second-seeded Duke will play either Miami or Florida State in the second semifinal game on Saturday. Virginia Tech ends the season with a 16-17 record.