The Blue Devils (24-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who saw the Hokies erase a 12-point deficit to pull even with six minutes left, won their fourth in a row and stayed a game behind ACC-leading North Carolina. The Tar Heels (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) beat Georgia Tech in an early game. A.D. Vassallo scored 26 points for Virginia Tech (17-11, 7-7), including all 15 in a 15-4 run that drew them even, but the Hokies' NCAA tournament hopes were dealt a harsh blow.
They still have games against the Tar Heels and at Florida State, and coach Seth Greenberg has said he thinks they needed to win all of them to gain a bid.
Gerald Henderson also scored 21 for the Blue Devils, 17 in the first half, and added six assists, while John Scheyer scored 16. The rest of the Blue Devils totaled 14 points.
Duke led by as many as 16 in the first half and 12 in the second, but had given all that back until Singler hit two free throws with 4:25 left to snap a 58-all tie. Henderson added two free throws and Singler got loose for a layup, giving Duke a 64-58 edge with 1:23 left.
After Allen hit a free throw for the Hokies, Thompson forced a jump ball on Allen's miss, getting the Hokiees the ball, and Allen's leaning bank shot made it 64-61 with 1:06 left.
But Greg Paulus and Singler each made a free throw, and after Dorenzo Hudson's two free throws for the Hokies made it 66-63, Singler found Paulus all alone beyond the midcourt line and threw a baseball pass that Paulus took in for a backbreaking layup with 33 seconds left.
The Hokies trailed all game until Vassallo got hot. He hit 3-pointers 38 seconds apart to pull Tech to within 56-49, and it was just the start of a 15-4 run in which he scored all of Virginia Tech's points, finally getting them even at 58 on a 3-pointer with 6 minutes left.
Henderon and Scheyer scored eight points each as the Blue Devils took a 20-5 lead after the first 10 minutes. The Hokies missed 12 of their first 14 shots and had seven turnovers. Virginia Tech closed to within nine three times later in the half, but the Blue Devils responded with a basket each time and went into the locker room leading 36-25.
Duke played without point guard Nolan Smith, who sustained a concussion in the Blue Devils' victory at Maryland on Wednesday night. He's out indefinitely, while the Hokies were without backup point guard Hank Thorns, who was ill.