The Hokies (19-8, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), badly in need of a signature victory to enhance their NCAA tournament credentials, got it thanks to 12-4 run over a span of 4½ minutes that turned a 53-47 deficit into a 62-57 lead with 2 minutes remaining.
The Blue Devils (26-3, 12-2) had chances in the closing minute to pull even when Virginia Tech struggled at the free throw line, but couldn't capitalize. Duke had its seven-game winning streak snapped and allowed the Hokies to get a badly boost to their NCAA hopes.
Kyle Singler led Duke with 22 points and Nolan Smith had 18. Jeff Allen led the Hokies with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Bell and Erick Green each scored 12 as the Hokies improved to 4-7 in their history against teams ranked No. 1.
The Hokies trailed 51-45 until Malcolm Delaney's driving basket with 9:28 left. It ignited a 12-4 burst, with the last seven coming in succession to give then a 57-55 lead. Bell had the last five -- a 3-pointer to tie it from the right corner and two free throws. Bell then blocked a driving shot by Smith, and after an exchange of misses at each end, Mason Plumlee went high to block a shot by Allen and was called for goaltending, doubling the Hokies lead to 59-55 leading into a timeout with 2:39 remaining.
Singler scored for the Blue Devils, but Delaney atoned for a rough night by swishing his only 3-pointer from the top of the key, rebuilding the margin to 62-57 with 2:01 to play. A layin by Plumlee with 1:25 left and his free throw with 23.2 seconds left was all the Blue Devils could muster the rest of the way, allowing Virginia Tech to hang on.
As the buzzer sounded, fans streamed onto the court. The Hokies led 42-37 until Andre Dawkins's 3-pointer for Duke with 16:45 to go sparked a 14-3 burst for the Blue Devils. Singler had seven points in the run, and capped it with a 3-pointer that gave Duke a 51-45 advantage with 11:08 to play. When Delaney made a layup, just his third field goal, with 9:28 left, it pulled Virginia Tech to 51-47 -- and ended a scoring drought of 4 1/2 minutes for the home team.
But with Singler repeatedly missing open 3s for the Blue Devils -- he finished 1 for 7 from behind the 3-point line -- the Hokies failed to capitalize right away. Victor Davila missed a pair of free throws badly, and Delaney air-balled a 3-pointer to groans.
But then the Hokies caught fire again, and everything changed. The game also was the first appearance at Cassell Coliseum for Seth Curry, whose father, Dell, is the second-leading scorer in Hokies history. Seth Curry was recruited by the Hokies, but wound up at Liberty and transferred to Duke after one season seeking a bigger challenge.
He was jeered in introductions, whistled for two quick fouls at the start of the game and again early in the second half, and played little. He came in for the final sequence, but threw the ball away when double teamed at the top of the key, capping a scoreless night.
The Hokies led 33-31 at halftime, and for most of the first half even though scoring leader Malcolm Delaney didn't scratch until he hit a layup just 4:39 before halftime.
Delaney managed only four shots in the half, and was blanketed on defense by Smith, who also hit 6 of 10 shots and led all scorers with 12 points. Green had 10 for the Hokies.
The Blue Devils led just twice in the half, the last at 18-16, but Green's 3-pointer from the right corner launched a 13-4 run that gave the Hokies a 29-22 advantage, their largest.