The Duke men's basketball team faced off against Virginia Tech in a highly anticipated matchup. The game was played at Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the Blue Devils, and the atmosphere was electric. As the teams took the court for the first half, fans eagerly awaited to see how the game would unfold. Here are five observations from the first half of the game.
With only one trip to the Sweet 16 in program history (2019), Virginia Tech's men's basketball team may not have a strong legacy, but that hasn't stopped Cassell Coliseum from becoming a difficult place for Duke to play. The Blue Devils have lost all four of their previous meetings in Blacksburg by an average of 6.8 points. The unique and boisterous arena, along with the enthusiastic student section, creates a challenging environment for opposing teams.
Before tipoff, the Virginia Tech crowd and starting point guard Justyn Mutts were getting hyped up with a light show and a team hype video set to Journey's "Separate Ways." This was followed by the Hokies' traditional pregame song, "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. The energy and enthusiasm from the crowd can certainly play a factor in the game, but ultimately it will come down to the performance of the players on the court. The early 25-12 run by Virginia Tech in the first quarter gives an indication of the impact of the crowd, but Duke will need to find a way to manage the atmosphere if they hope to come out on top.
Hunter Cattoor, the sweet-shooting Floridian, had a breakout performance in the championship game of the ACC tournament last March against Duke, where he scored 31 points and hit 7 three-pointers, earning him MVP honors and helped Virginia Tech secure an 82-67 upset victory. In this game, Cattoor had a slow start missing his first two shots, but quickly found his rhythm and hit a three from the top of the key to cut Duke's lead to 13-12. A few plays later, he hit another 3-pointer from the corner, drawing a foul, but was unable to convert the free throw. Cattoor shot 4 for 6 from deep in the first half, showcasing his accuracy from long range and scoring 12 points. We bet the gamblers won some money off of his performance. Visit superbetting and get familiar with basketball betting to increase your chances of making money.
Duke's captain, junior point guard Jordan Roach, has returned to the lineup after recovering from a toe injury. He made his return on Saturday against Miami, coming off the bench and leading Duke to a 68-66 victory with 14 points, four assists, and a combination of crucial steals and midrange jumpers in the second half. In this game, Roach came in with 14 minutes left in the first half and made an immediate impact, finishing near the rim to get Duke to within a point, and then about four minutes later, making a tough step-up shot over Virginia Tech forward Grant Basile. Roach has played well for two games in a row despite a toe injury, which is unusual for a point guard. Head coach Jon Scheyer needs more from his on-court leader if Duke is going to take this game down to the wire. He closed the first half with four points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field.
Both teams got out to strong starts, with Virginia Tech shooting 75% from the field and Duke sitting at 60% at the under-12 timeout. Both teams' shooting percentages were above average. Cattoor and point guard Sean Pedulla scored 16 of the Hokies' first 25 points collectively. Pedulla led the Hokies in scoring. Three of Duke's starting players, Kyle Filipowski, Dariq Whitehead, and Ryan Young, were all immediately capable of contributing offensively. Both teams slowed down as the game went on, with Duke shooting 50% from the field and Virginia Tech finishing the half with 68%. The tempo of the game was slower for both teams (7-of-10 on threes).
Player of the half: Dariq Whitehead
It appears that Dariq Whitehead will continue to be a key player for Virginia Tech in the second half. He had a strong first half performance, scoring frequently from midrange and beyond the arc. For the team to maintain their scoring rate, Whitehead will need to build on his ten-point first half performance and continue to make a significant impact on the game.
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