The wonderful careers of Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell, and Coleman Collins ended today with a 63-48 loss to southern illinois. The Hokies could not overcome the country’s third best scoring defense and 12 three-pointers by the salukis.
The difference maker today was the three point shooting. southern illinois was 12 of 21, and the Hokies were just 2 of 12. A.D. Vassallo could never get on track, as he was 0 for 6 from the field (all behind the arc). He had a fair amount of open looks too, but the string music was not playing tonight. Zabian Dowdell was shut down for the second game in a row. He was only 3 of 9 from the field, and finished with 7 points. The output behind the arc was eerily similar to the 69-56 loss to uva on March 1. The hoos made 10 threes to Tech’s two, and A.D. was only 1 of 8 that night. Jamon Gordon and Deron Washington made the only three-balls today for the Hokies.
The swing point of the game was the last 5 minutes of the first half. After Gordon nailed a three to put the Hokies up 18-15, he was taken out for a quick rest before the TV timeout. The Hokies then went on a scoring drought for 3 and a half minutes, and guess who broke it? Jamon. The salukis, specifically Jamaal Tatum, went on a 13-2 run. Tatum had 3 three pointers during that stretch. The Hokies could not claw their way back into it after that.
You could point to one possession in the second half that might have enabled the Hokies to get back into the game. Down 33-25 with 13:46 left, Witcher made the front end of a 1 and 1, but then missed the second. Deron Washington got the rebound and pitched out to Gordon in the corner for a three pointer. The shot hit iron, and the salukis took it down the court and drained a three. Instead of a four point deficit, it was a 10 point deficit, and Tech never came closer.
Another critical issue was the foul trouble for Coleman Collins. Coleman appeared to be on the verge for another solid performance, but picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes of the second half, which gave him 4 for the game. The Hokies had no substitute inside, which enabled the salukis to continue to apply heavy pressure on the perimeter. With Collins down low, this would have taken that pressure off, and given the Hokie guards some better looks. Unfortunately, a couple of fouls called on Coleman were pretty ticky-tacky, in my humble opinion.
The salukis executed their game plan to perfection today, and look to be this year’s mid-major representative in the Sweet 16. But don’t let that mid-major label fool you. This is a solid team that was ranked in the Top 10, and have won 29 out of 35 games. It is southern illinois’ first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2002.
Tech’s loss means that the ACC has only 1 of 7 teams remaining in the tournament. I am completely shocked by this fact, and even carolina had their hands full last night against michigan state. It could easily be zero. I think it is fair to say that the ACC is the toughest conference from top to bottom, but the top is not the cream of the crop in college basketball this year.
The Hokies end a magical season at 22-12. While Tech could not become the second team in history to reach the Sweet 16, this team did something that the teams of Dell Curry and Bimbo Coles never did, win a NCAA tournament game. They’re the reason that this website was launched, and hopefully they will be remembered as the team that laid the foundation for a new level of success in Hokie basketball.