The Virginia Tech Hokies upset No. 1 wake forest tonight in Winston-Salem, 78-71, handing the demon deacons their first loss of the season. Sophomore Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies with 21 points, while the other two members of the “Big Three,” Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo, added 16 each. wake’s Jeff Teague got 23, but his two big men were in foul trouble early and that hurt wake’s inside game.
The game was a bloody mess — literally. Early in the first half, Vassallo caught wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu with an inadvertent elbow to the forehead that left a huge cut above Aminu’s eye. Blood was literally pouring onto the court. Aminu missed much of the first half after leaving to have his axe wound stitched up and bandaged.
The game was a slugfest. A donnybrook. A slobberknocker, if you will. Early in the second half, wake’s Chas McFarland committed a flagrant foul against Delaney, but the refs only called a personal foul. Then later in the second half, McFarland and Tech’s Cheick Diakite both received technical fouls for a mild altercation at mid-court as the players were heading to their benches for a timeout. The foul was McFarland’s fifth and he was on the bench for the rest of the game.
Despite all the physical play, wake forest attempted zero free throws in the first half. None. The wake fans were about to run the refs out of the building. But the refs more than made up for it the second half, calling the Hokies for seven personal fouls in the first four and a half minutes, including some really iffy calls away from the ball. Even the announcers commented that Tech would have to adjust to the officiating in the second half.
Regardless, the Hokies played an outstanding defensive game. This was a wake team averaging 85 ppg, and the Hokies held them to 71. At the end of the first half, Tech had muzzled the potent offensive attack of the deacons to just 24 points.
The Hokies jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead, delivering the first blow in what was a highly entertaining, if stressful, game to watch. wake answered to take a 7-8 lead at the first media timeout. After that, it was all Hokies for the rest of the half. Delaney hit a pull-up jumper with 12:50 left to give the Hokies a 10-8 lead, and they would never trail again.
The deacs kept it close and pulled to within one, 15-14, before Tech went on a 15-0 run to take a 30-14 lead with 4:15 to play in the first. wake tried to answer, but every time the home team hit a big shot, the Hokies would answer to silence the crowd and kill the momentum. Tech took a 34-24 lead into the break.
The first few minutes of the second half belonged to wake forest … and the officials. J.T. Thompson was called for four fouls in a span of 3 minutes and 41 seconds. It appeared that the refs were anxious to make up for the lack of free throws for wake in the first half. In the first 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the second half, Tech was called for seven team fouls:
19:18 – J.T. foul
18:45 – Offensive foul called on Allen
17:27 – Delaney foul
17:24 – Davila foul
16:52 – J.T. foul
15:48 – J.T. foul
15:37 – J.T. foul
The seven team fouls put wake in the bonus for the majority of the second half and that helped them chip away at Tech’s lead. At one point, the Hokies had a 15-point lead, 43-28, but wake didn’t let up and eventually cut the lead down to two, 71-69, with 1:42 left.
The Hokies should have put this game away a lot earlier, but shot just 22 of 37 from the charity stripe — that’s 59 percent … awful. In the final two minutes of the game, the Hokies missed 7 of 14 free throws, allowing wake to hang on. But the deacs went cold from the field and couldn’t hit a shot in the final minute, and the Hokies picked up their third win ever against a No. 1 ranked team — their second in the last two years, and first time ever beating a No. 1 on the road.
As Niemo pointed out in his preview, the deacons are not a threat from behind the arc, and tonight was no different. When wake’s big men were sitting on the bench with foul trouble, Tech tightened up in the middle and forced wake to shoot from the perimeter. wake ended up shooting 5 of 16 from three-point land and all of those came in the second half as they tried to play catch up.