- - Friday, March 9, 2012

ATLANTA — As Virginia Tech sophomore Jarell Eddie slung a pass to freshman Robert Brown in the first half Friday, Eddie yelled, “Right there, Rob,” as Brown sunk a 3-pointer.

Virginia Tech was “right there” for much of the night, as it has been for much of this trying season, but in the end, it’s Duke that is still in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Freshman guard Austin Rivers scored 17 points as the second-seeded Blue Devils pulled away from Tech in the second half for a 60-56 win in the quarterfinals at Philips Arena.

“I’m hurt. We wanted to come in here and win it,” senior guard Dorenzo Hudson said. “One stop. One rebound. One big stop that we needed that we couldn’t get all year. But we competed all year.”

No. 6 Duke (26-5) will play Miami or Florida State.

The 10th-seeded Hokies (16-17), who beat Clemson on Thursday, got 16 points each from Brown and junior guard Erick Green.

And, in a fitting end to a season full of nail-biters, they hung around to the bitter-as-always final horn.

“I feel like people will respect us for it,” Eddie said. “And people should respect us for it. We are a good team. Our record doesn’t reflect it, but we play everybody we play down to the last minute.”

Tech cut Duke’s lead to 55-51 with 1:02 left on a driving layup by Brown. But Brown missed a free throw that would have made it a three-point play and Tech’s next possession produced nothing.

Rivers’ layup and free throw put Duke up 58-51 with 26.4 seconds left and effectively sealed the Blue Devils’ 10th consecutive ACC tournament win.

“We knew it was going to be possession-by-possession game,” said Duke guard Tyler Thornton. “We knew we were going to have to fight on every possession.”

Duke appeared on the verge of putting the game away at numerous points before that, but the Hokies wouldn’t let it happen.

“We didn’t want to go out like that,” Green said. “We wanted to go out fighting. We all went out fighting.”

In the first half, Tech used 3-pointers to stay in the game. The Hokies hit four of their seven shots from beyond the arc, with Brown and Dorian Finney-Smith each hitting two treys.

At the same time, Tech did a strong job with its 3-point defense, as Duke went 2-for-11 from beyond the arc before halftime.

Duke jumped out to a 13-5 advantage early on, but the Hokies responded. They took their first lead of the game on the 3 by Brown off the pass — with words of encouragement — by Eddie. That shot put Tech up 14-13 with 13:27 left in the half.

Duke used a spurt just before halftime to take a 31-26 lead at the break.

In the second half, Duke began to pull away. Seth Curry started a breakaway and finished it with an ally-oop pass to Mason Plumlee for the slam and a 38-32 lead with 15:15 left.

Then Curry, who finished with nine points, sank a 3-pointer from the wing to put the Devils up 41-34.

The Hokies got themselves within four points twice after that, but couldn’t overtake Duke.

“A couple of times, I thought we were right on the verge of getting a lead,” Brown said. “I know this team. Once we got that lead, I think we have enough heart and enough character that we would have kept it and we’d be talking about win.”

Instead, they were talking about another game in which they were right there.

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