The Hokies had their hearts broken once again in the final seconds as the tar heels got some help from the officials and a very late questionable call to hold off the Hokies 79-76. The controversial call with 5.2 seconds left gave unc a held ball and possession with a 77-76 lead.
Virginia Tech had the ball, trailing by 1 point, with no shot clock and the chance to win the game with a basket. J.T. Thompson intercepted a pass back out to the perimeter and attempted to back in the lane where he was met by a pair of heels, Ed Davis and Tyler Hansbrough, who mugged Thompson, but the refs let it go and then called a held ball with the possession arrow in unc’s favor. That effectively ended the game and sent Seth Greenberg into a coat-flinging rampage.
Tech fouled immediately and Hansbrough hit both shots to give the heels a 79-76 lead. Not surprisingly, unc had only been called for three fouls until the final 30 seconds of the game, when they started fouling the Hokies to disrupt their game plan and force them to inbound the ball. Tech got the ball to A.D. Vassallo for a game-tying shot attempt, but it wasn’t a good look and hit mostly air as the clock hit all zeros.
The Hokies continued their stellar play from the Miami game and fought tooth and nail in this game, giving the heels all they could handle. Even with Allen and Vassallo in foul trouble pretty much the entire game, Tech kept the game close, and in fact led for the majority of the game. But as well as they played, unc is unc, and when they need a big shot they get it. And when they need a foul called against their opponent, or a no-call against them, they get it. It’s tough to beat that combination.
Vassallo, despite foul trouble, was tough for unc to defend. He led the Hokies with his second double-double of the season — 26 points and 10 rebounds. And he was 4/7 from 3-point range. Malcolm Delaney also recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists, his first career double-double, and a career-high in assists.
Despite all the close losses, and despite having clearly displayed the ability to play with the best teams in the country, it is unlikely that Tech will get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. It appears that they’ll probably earn a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NIT tournament. We’ll know for sure on Sunday. The Hokies will likely host a first-round NIT game next Tuesday or Wednesday, March 17-18. We’ll keep everyone posted.