No. 19 Duke’s scintillating comeback erased nearly all of the Blue Devils’ faults in a poor start at No. 20 Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.

Alas, Duke’s poor shooting during a key stretch of the second half led to its first ACC loss.

Redshirt sophomore guard Tyrece Radford scored 18 points and Redshirt junior forward Keve Aluma added 17 as the Hokies, who led by 18 points in the first half, held off Duke’s rally to beat the Blue Devils, 74-67, at Cassell Coliseum.

Duke freshman guard Jeremy Roach scored a game-high 22 points for Duke (5-3, 3-1 ACC) while sophomore forward Matthew Hurt scored 20.

The Blue Devils cut Virginia Tech’s deficit to a single point in the second half, but poor shooting down the stretch did them in. Duke shot 40% in the game, including 35.3% in the second half.

“We had opportunities,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We just couldn’t hit a shot. We had some good looks.”

Virginia Tech (10-2, 4-1) never trailed in keeping Duke winless in three games against ranked teams this season.

After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half and cutting Virginia Tech’s lead to 46-34 at halftime, Duke roared out of the halftime locker room with sharp shooting and aggressive defense.

The Blue Devils made 8 of their first 12 shots after halftime with Hurt’s 3-pointer with 13:12 to play leaving the Hokies with a 56-55 lead.

The Blue Devils cooled off, missing their next seven shots, and allowed the Hokies to push their lead out to seven points when Virginia Tech sophomore guard Jalen Cone hit a 3-pointer for a 64-57 lead with 8:37 to play.

With Duke in the midst of hitting just 4 of 22 shots over the game’s final 13 minutes, the Hokies took a 68-59 lead when Aluma scored in the lane with 6:09 to play.

DukeVirginiaTechBasketball (4).JPG
Virginia Tech’s Tyrece Radford (23) has the ball stolen from him by Duke’s DJ Steward (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va. Matt Gentry AP

Here are earlier updates:

Hokies up at halftime

Virginia Tech carved up Duke’s defense, hitting 16 of its first 21 shots to open up an 18-point lead before taking a 46-34 halftime lead.

Radford scored 14 points in the first half for the Hokies, who shot 63.3% overall.

Duke struggled offensively early, finishing the half with nine turnovers, as Virginia Tech built a 36-18 lead. The Blue Devils settled down a bit over the latter stages of the half to slice in the deficit. Duke made 12 of 26 shots in the first half (46.6%), including 4 of 11 3-pointers.

Roach scored 13 first-half points for Duke.

The Blue Devils received a boost by Jalen Johnson’s return from injury. The 6-9 freshman forward, who missed Duke’s last three games with a foot injury, came off the bench to score two points and pick up an assist in four minutes of play.

Short bench for the Blue Devils

Winless in two previous games against ranked teams this season, No 19 Duke faced No. 20 Virginia Tech with two reserves out and a third former starter limited at best.

Graduate student center Patrick Tapé (back) and freshman forward Henry Coleman (illness) were not in uniform for the game.

Johnson went through pregame warmups for the first time since Duke’s 83-68 loss to Illinois on Dec. 8. Johnson missed Duke’s last three games with a foot injury. He was not in the starting lineup at Virginia Tech and was considered a game-time decision as to his availability to play.

Duke started guards Jordan Goldwire, Roach and DJ Steward along with forwards Matthew Hurt and Jaemyn Brakefield.

Assistant coach Chris Carrawell did not travel with the team as he also is suffering from an illness. Both he and Coleman have tested negative for COVID-19 so far.

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Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He placed second in both beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors national contest. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly. He’s won numerous state-level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.