It was a hell of a ride, but tonight, it was time to get off. The ole miss rebels came into the Cassell and pounded the Hokies on the boards, out-rebounding the home team *46-23 en route to a 72-81 win to earn a spot in the NIT Final Four. When you factor in the Hokies’ abysmal free throw shooting, just 13/22, it’s a miracle that Tech didn’t lose by more than nine points.
During the post-game radio interview with Seth Greenberg, it was clear that he was not happy with his team’s performance. He apologized to the fans because he felt like he and the team “let them down.” I think Seth is being a little too hard on his team, but he was still in coaching mode, so I expected nothing less.
It certainly wasn’t the way Deron Washington wanted to end his career at the Cassell, but he did everything he could to get a win by scoring a season-high 23 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. A.D. Vassallo scored 16 and Malcolm Delaney added 14. Jeff Allen was held in check all night and only managed 7 points and 4 rebounds.
The Hokies jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead and the crowd was rocking and rolling. It was the same feeling and atmosphere as the uab game on Monday night. The Hokies picked up right where they left off and were just hitting everything. But the rebels were able to slow the Hokies down and played pretty much a zone defense the entire night which completely took the Hokies out of their game.
Tech also struggled with the size difference in the paint. As Niemo pointed out in the preview, senior Dwayne Curtis (#44) weighs 262 pounds and fellow senior Kenny Williams (#40) comes in at 6-8, 240 pounds. Niemo also correctly pointed out that Tech had to do a much better job boxing out on defense … and they did not. Rebounding and free throws killed the Hokies on this night, which saw their first home loss in the post season NIT.
The Hokies trailed by two at the half, 31-33, and managed to scratch, claw and fight their way to a 46-46 tie with 12 minutes to play in the second half, but ole miss ripped off a 14-3 run that proved too much for the Hokies to overcome. The closest they got within the final two minutes was seven points.
The fans deserve a lot of credit because they stuck with the team until the end. It was as loud as the uab game and it wasn’t until about 45 seconds left that I think the crowd finally came to grips with the fact they were going to lose the game. As the clock ran down, the fans began chanting “LET’S GO HOKIES!”
On a whole, Hokie fans have to be thrilled with a 21-14 season. No one would have expected this in November and even without Deron Washington next season, there is plenty to excited about for 2008-2009.
One final note: Hank Thorns, who was 0-3 with no points in 9 minutes, did score an assist, which gives him Tech’s freshman record for assists in a season with 113, one more than Bimbo Coles.
Niemo may or may not have notes depending on his mental state following this crushing defeat.