Chris Clarke sinks Duke, but the Blue Devils still have something cooking on defense

The lasting image of Virginia Tech’s upset win over No. 5 Duke on Monday night will be Chris Clarke’s game-winning tip-in with 4.1 second left. That makes sense; it came on the weak-side of Duke’s much-discussed zone defense. This means it has to be a topic of conversation.

With Duke’s defense under the microscope, let’s take a look why last night’s performance against the Hokies was actually pretty darn good.


Numbers to know

Duke fell short on the road, but it was not a falter on the defensive end. (As with everything else in life, never listen to Dan Dakich.)

With point guard Justin Robinson dinged up, the Hokies didn’t have a good game offensively. Virginia Tech went 5-of-22 (22.7 3P%) from beyond the arc. According to Synergy Sports, the Hokies went just 12-of-31 (38.7 FG%) on spot-up attempts — 7-of-22 (31.8 FG%) in the half-court.

Robinson and Justin Bibbs went a combined 2-of-11 (18.2 3P%) on spot-up three-point attempts in the half-court. Both of those guys, by the way, rank inside the top 15 of the ACC in terms of efficiency on spot-up possessions.

For the game, Virginia Tech posted an effective shooting rate of just 49 percent. As a comparison, the Hokies rank 11th nationally in effective field goal percentage, according to KenPom: 57.8 percent.

The Blue Devils held the Hokies to just 0.95 points per possession, according to Sports Reference. After last night’s game, Duke actually rose to No. 13 in the nation in defensive efficiency — up from No. 27.


Glass Laws

On the game’s penultimate possession, Chris Clarke scored the deciding basket — a result of Marvin Bagley rushing from the weak-side to contest a shot from Nickeil Alexander-Walker. With Wendell Carter boxing out Kerry Blackshear, no one was home to put a body on Clarke.

Now, this moment will draw a lot of attention because it cost Duke a game. One of the holes of a zone defense is the confusion that can occur in defensive rebound assignments; therefore this can become as easy talking point.

However, Clarke’s tip-in was one of just five offensive rebounds for Virginia Tech in this game. Duke grabbed 83 percent of the available defensive rebounds, which is an outstanding rate.

According to KenPom, Virginia Tech is the ACC’s second shortest team — ahead of only NC State. The Hokies put very little emphasis in hitting the offensive glass (23.4 percent offensive rebound rate). So Duke should be able to dominate the glass.

It’s worth noting, though, that Virginia Tech scored just four points this game on put-back attempts after an offensive rebound.

This was a perfectly fine defensive performance from the Blue Devils; the bigger concern in this game for Duke was an offense that looked sluggish for stretches of time, and frequently had to attack 4-of-5. (More on this later in the week.)


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