The Hokies took the message to heart, and when Dowdell made a 3-pointer with 14.6 seconds to play, Virginia Tech stunned No. 7 Duke 67-65 Thursday night.
"Now we belong," Dowdell said of the Hokies, in their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "I mean, they have to take us serious now.
"Whether they like it or not, we're here."
The victory was one of the biggest in Hokies history, and came against the most unlikely opponent - the one with the reputation for working hard.
Behind 14 points and 18 rebounds from Coleman Collins, Virginia Tech outrebounded Duke 49-32. The Hokies got J.J. Redick in foul trouble for the first time this season and they blocked 12 shots, making All-America candidates Redick and Shelden Williams work extra hard for shots.
"It's all about hustle and effort and attitude," Redick said. "You've got to go make it happen, and Virginia Tech made it happen tonight."
The Hokies (13-10, 6-6) ended a three-game losing streak and pulled into a three-way tie for fourth in the league with Maryland and Miami. The Blue Devils (18-4, 8-4), who beat Virginia Tech 100-65 less than three weeks ago, lost their second in a row.
"It's almost beyond words," second-year Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said, "and anyone who knows me, to be beyond words is pretty hard for me."
The finish was frantic, with Redick hitting a 3-pointer with 22.9 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a 65-64 lead, and Dowdell coming back with a jumper from the right wing that caused the sellout crowd to erupt.
After timeouts by each team, Duke inbounded the ball with 4.9 seconds left and Redick fed Daniel Ewing for a 3-point try from right of the key that missed, bringing hundreds of fans rushing onto the court.
"Duke is Duke," Greenberg said, struggling to explain his emotions. "Ten Final Fours. Everything good you can think about college basketball, Duke epitomizes. To me, they're the Yankees, and I'm a Yankee fan."
Carlos Dixon led the Hokies with 18 points and more than held his own against Redick, who scored 19 and but missed nine of 16 shots. Jamon Gordon added 17 points and had four blocks, and Dowdell scored 11.
"We just showed them what we're all about," Dixon said. "We knew we could play with them the first 5 minutes of the game. We had to just keep fighting and keep fighting and we did."
Collins, just 18, also blocked five shots.
Shelden Williams had 16 points and Ewing had 13 for Duke.
Redick brought the Blue Devils back to 60-all on a drive with 3:05 left. After Jeff king, a football tight end who joined the team after the season, made a baby hook to get the Hokies back in front, Williams scored inside to tie it again, setting up the thrilling finish.
Collins, 10-for-10 from the line in a game earlier this year, missed a pair with 1:11 left, but Redick missed a 17-footer at the other end.
Gordon then emerged from a crowd under the Hokies' basket to tip in a miss with just over 32 seconds left. Redick then nailed his third 3-pointer, before Dowdell's big swish.
Trailing 54-49, the Hokies scored nine consecutive points to take the lead, and drew two more fouls on Redick, sending him to the bench with four fouls with 7:07 left.
Dixon drew the first, and converted a three-point play, then added a 3-pointer from the right corner after a scramble for a loose ball.
After a turnover by the Blue Devils, Gordon drove into the lane, was fouled by Redick and hit both shots, making it 58-54 with 7:07 to play.
A 3-pointer by Redick started a 12-6 run for Duke to begin the second half, give the Blue Devils a 48-41 advantage and making it look like they were finally taking control.
But after Redick missed a wide-open 3, Coleman Collins brought the sellout crowd back to life with a putback dunk, Duke turned it over and Dixon scored on a drive to get the Hokies back in it, trailing 48-45.
Williams 6-13 4-6 16, Randolph 3-4 0-2 6, Redick 7-16 2-2 19, Ewing 5-14 1-2 13, Dockery 1-5 4-4 7, Melchionni 0-4 2-2 2, Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Love 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-59 13-18 65.
VIRGINIA TECH (13-10)
Washington 0-3 0-0 0, Dixon 8-18 1-1 18, Collins 6-18 2-4 14, Dowdell 3-8 3-3 11, Gordon 6-12 5-6 17, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Witherspoon 0-0 0-0 0, Krabbendam 0-0 0-0 0, Cooke 0-0 0-0 0, Calloway 0-0 0-0 0, King 2-5 3-4 7, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-64 14-18 67.
Halftime-Duke 36-35. 3-Point Goals-Duke 6-22 (Redick 3-8, Ewing 2-8, Dockery 1-3, Melchionni 0-3), Virginia Tech 3-8 (Dowdell 2-4, Dixon 1-3, Gordon 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Duke 59 (Williams 7), Virginia Tech 87 (Collins 18). Assists-Duke 8 (Redick 5), Virginia Tech 8 (Dixon 3). Total Fouls-Duke 15, Virginia Tech 16. A-9,847.