Duke, schmook – Hokies, after win, shrug off hype

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Duke Blue Devils may be the headliner at the Washington, D.C., Regional, but Friday’s opponent isn’t star struck.

Virginia Tech beat Duke last month — albeit with freshman star Zion Williamson on the sideline. And when asked about the rematch, the Hokies weren’t interested in building up Duke’s brand.

“My three out of four years here at Virginia Tech, we’ve beaten Duke,” said guard Justin Robinson, who also missed the Hokies’ 77-72 win on Feb. 26. “I don’t think we’re excited for the moment. I think it’s just another game for us.”

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Teammate Ahmed Hill then leaned into his microphone to offer a confirmation: “100 percent.”

The Hokies’ players exited the dais at Capital One Arena joking about the hype surrounding Duke, in spite of Virginia Tech’s success.

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Of course, the win last month comes with a large asterisk, as Williamson was sidelined with a knee injury. Since returning to action in the ACC tournament, he has averaged 27.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, and Duke is 5-0.

How might Williamson impact the rematch?

“Our game plan stays the same,” Hill said. “Yeah, he’s a tremendous player. But it is what it is. We’re going to not let the ball get in the paint … make him shoot long, contested 3s and force turnovers. We’re going to limit our turnovers and get great shots.”

Keeping Williamson out of the paint has been a tough task for Duke opponents this year, but Virginia Tech will also get a boost from Robinson’s return to action. The point guard missed the last month of the season and the ACC tournament before returning last weekend for the NCAA tournament.

“We played 12 games without [Robinson],” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “It’s arguable, but I think he’s really important to what we do. I know that’s not the storyline today. But he has, for sure, made an impact in the progression of our program.

“But it’s hard to say what the difference is other than two teams have both added two really important cogs to the roster.”

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