About [bleeping] time… The Hokies finally got a close game to go their way today as they came back from down 18 points in the second half, and down 8 with less than two minutes to play, to beat n.c. state in overtime, 91-87.
It was also the first win for the Hokies over the pack since Jan. 15, 2005, when the good guys won 72-71 at the Cassell. The OT win was the eighth straight overtime win in ACC play for Virginia Tech, which improved to 15-7 overall, 5-3 in the ACC.
Senior A.D. Vassallo scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and OT; Jeff Allen had 21 points, 8 rebounds; Malcolm Delaney scored 18 points; and J.T. Thompson stepped up with 12 points off the bench.
The Hokies jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, but it was all pack after that in the first half, using a 30-8 run to take a 16-32 lead midway through the first half. The Hokies responded with a 17-4 run of their own to cut the state lead to 33-36. In a game of runs, the pack answered with a 13-3 sprint to take a 49-35 halftime lead.
The Hokies continued to struggle early in the second half, falling behind by 18 points at 43-61 with less than 14 minutes to play. But in the span of just 27 seconds, the Hokies scored 8 quick points to cut the lead to 10.
The outburst began with a steal by Hank Thorns who appeared to have a clear path for an easy layup, but state’s Courtney Fells sped down the court and fouled Thorns from behind while blocking the shot. Fells, who has 9 inches and 60 pounds on Thorns, made contact and sent the smaller Hokie flying face-first into the padded base of the basket. The ref called an intentional foul, even though it clearly was not (I’ll get to the officiating later).
Dorenzo Hudson came on to shoot the technical foul shots and made both. The Hokies inbounded the ball and got it to Hudson who drained a three from the right wing to cut the pack lead to 63-50. At the other end, Allen stole the ball from Dennis Horner and fed Delaney on the left wing for an uncontested trey to cut the lead down to 53-63.
From there, the Hokies kept within reach of the pack and were trailing byÂ eight with under two minutes to play. Tech used a Thompson layup and four foul shots from Delaney to pull within two. After a pair of missed free throws by state’s Horner, Vassallo drilled a baseline jumper with 17 seconds left to tie the game at 76 and sending it into overtime.
Fueled by a monster 18-point comeback in the second half and by the energy of the Cassell crowd, the Hokies took over the extra session. They grabbed a quick 4-point lead and never looked back, though it did get a little scary toward the end. Though his stats don’t look all that impressive, Terrell Bell played a solid game defensively and led the Hokies in OT.
After Vassallo gave Tech a 78-76 lead, Bell blocked Fells’ shot at the top of the key, grabbed the ball and took it the other way for a layup and a 4-point Hokie lead. With about a minute to play in OT, Bell had a key assist to Allen along the baseline for the hoop and the foul. Allen completed the 3-point play to put Tech up 85-80.
The pack kept it close with a pair of clutch treys from Javier Gonzalez, but Vassallo hit four foul shots in the final 17 seconds to close out the game and snap Tech’s two-game skid. The win also snapped Tech’s six-game losing streak to state, and Tech’s nightmarish string of close losses.
Back to the refs. The officiating was questionable at best in this game, particularly late in the first half when the Hokies got called for two fouls within nine seconds of each other and neither one was a foul. The first was on Victor Davila, who was called for a foul even though he had position and his hands were straight up in the air. That foul ignited the crowd into deafening cascades of “boos”, and Seth Greenberg exploded off the sideline to contest the call.
The official nearest Seth gave him a warning, but Seth continued to seethe and stalk the sideline. The pack’s Tracy Smith missed the second of two foul shots, but state rebounded the ball. While trying to guard Brandon Costner, Delaney was thrown to the floor by the much bigger Costner, and when the whistle sounded, Hokie fans started to cheer, but the official immediately pointed to Delaney and the chorus of boos began again.
This time, Seth had to be restrained by his assistants as he screamed at the officials, who quickly gave Seth a technical foul. It didn’t deter Seth, as he continued to yell while his assistants continued to stand between him and the refs. After the first half, Greenberg waited for the officials to walk off the court, but they motioned for Seth to leave the court, which he did, but not before a few choice words. Only after Seth was gone did the officials leave.
The Fells foul on Thorns in the second half was called an intentional foul, but after watching the replay, it clearly was not. The refs reviewed it at the scorer’s table and still called it intentional. That led to five points for the Hokies.
Neither coach was happy with the officiating in this game, but then again, when was the last time a coach in any sports was thrilled with the officiating?
Virginia Tech returns to action in the Cassell on Wednesday night at 7 PM, hosting georgia tech. The game is scheduled for ESPNU, so for many of us not able to attend, and not able to get ESPNU on Comcast, it will be time to find a barstool and belly up. georgia tech is struggling through an abysmal season at 1-8 in conference and 10-12 overall.