DURHAM, N.C. — For the second time in two weeks Tuesday, Duke punished Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils again shredded the Hokies' defense, especially from beyond the 3-point arc, committed precious few turnovers and survived Erick Green's nightly soliloquy.
Otherwise, this 85-57 beatdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium had little resemblance to the 88-56 pasting in Blacksburg last month.
In short, Tech played far better here on the road against the nation's third-ranked team than it did at home.
At Cassell Coliseum, the Hokies trailed by 20 points at half, and the Devils cruised. Tuesday, Tech led for most of the first half, trailed by three at intermission and was within six with 12:30 remaining.
Duke (26-4, 13-4 ACC) closed with a 20-2 run over the final six-plus minutes to inflate the margin, but Tech (13-17, 4-13) played harder, smarter and better than before.
"They came ready to play, which is a tribute to them," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They'd won two of their last three. They should be proud of the fact that they haven't hung their heads. … I really respect that. That's part of being in a great league, where people don't give up."
The Devils' size, depth and talent prevailed, in large measure to three seniors playing their final home game. Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee combined for 52 points, with Kelly and Plumlee teaming for 10 of Duke's 17 assists.
Duke made 12 of 23 3-pointers and committed only four turnovers.
The extraordinary Green matched his season average with 25 points but as usual received scant little help. Jarell Eddie scored eight points in the first 5:04, but finished with 13 on 3-of-10 shooting.
"We had opportunities to win this game tonight," Tech coach James Johnson said. "We've got to find ways to finish games, whether we get tired down the stretch, whether they do try to pound it inside on us, whether we're in foul trouble. We've got to find a way to get guys to make plays."
Good luck with that next season sans Green.
The notion floated by some that the Hokies' trials preclude considering Green for ACC Player of the Year is short-sighted. He's having a historic season, and his Division I-best scoring average of 25.0 is hardly the product of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach.
The first major-conference player since Purdue's Glenn Robinson in 1994 to lead the nation in scoring, Green entered Tuesday shooting 48 percent overall, 38.8 from three and 82.2 percent from the free-throw line. That's extraordinary efficiency for someone carrying such burdens.
"He's led that team, and he hasn't had all the resources around him," Krzyzewski said, "and he still puts up those numbers. Just a terrific performance all year by Erick."
Case in point, Green's senior night at Cassell Coliseum. In Saturday's 69-61 victory over Clemson, he scored 29 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and 8-of-10 at the line. This on an evening when no one would have begrudged him 20 or 25 shots.
"It sums his whole season up in one game, what type of player he is and what type of kid he is," Johnson said earlier this week. "He'd much rather have the win. He makes the right decisions as a basketball player, the right decisions as a point guard. If that means shoot the three, I'll take the three; if that means use my middle game, if that means make the pass off over to the big man or kick it out for a three. And that's how it's been all year long."
I'm not sure if I'll vote for Green come Sunday. Miami's Shane Larkin, Virginia's Joe Harris and Duke's Plumlee also belong in the discussion and deserve to have their entire regular seasons evaluated.
Duke's season figures to extend well into March, if not April. Virginia Tech's likely will continue two more games, at Wake Forest on Sunday and in the opening round of the ACC tournament.
How much the Hokies have left in their small tank is uncertain.
"As the game went on, I thought we got tired," Johnson said. "I thought our legs got to us a little bit, but that's due to them. They made us work for everything."