Cavaliers Down Hokies in Overtime, 81-77

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Virginia outscored Virginia Tech 9-2 down the stretch in overtime to take a hard-fought 81-77 victory over the Hokies. The loss was Virginia’s 400th win in University Hall and spoiled a career-high 24 points from Jamon Gordon and 19 from freshman A.D. Vassallo. UVa was led by star guards Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, who scored 23 and 19 points respectively. The overtime game was Tech’s second consecutive OT game, the first time that has happened since 1992-93.

With Virginia leading 78-75 late in overtime, Vassallo airballed an open three-pointer with 16 seconds left to go. Vassallo’s miss was corralled by the Cavaliers, who hit three of four free throws in the last 12 seconds, offsetting a jumper by Gordon in the lane for the final margin of victory.

Regulation ended in a 69-69 tie, and UVa took the early lead in overtime when Adrian Joseph drilled a three-pointer from the left wing, roughly the same spot as his clutch three-pointer in Virginia’s 54-49 victory in Blacksburg on January 15th. The Hokies responded with the next six points, getting an old-fashioned three-point play from Gordon and a three-pointer from Vassallo that staked Tech to a 75-72 lead with 2:31 to go.

The Hokies failed to score on their next four possessions, though, allowing Virginia to scratch back into it and win. Reynolds and Singletary both hit a pair of free throws to put Virginia up 76-75, and Tech’s Wynton Witherspoon missed an open three-pointer with 1:07 remaining.

Leading by one, Virginia set up in their half court offense, and Reynolds drove the lane. The ball was batted away, into the waiting hands of UVa’s Laurynas Mikalauskas under the basket. Mikalauskas laid it in to give UVa a 78-75 lead with 34 seconds to go. The Hokies got a good look on their end of the floor, but Vassallo’s missed three-pointer sealed Tech’s fate.

The game was nearly equal statistically, with both teams shooting about 45% from the field and 82% from the free throw line. Each team had 36 rebounds, and UVa turned it over 12 times to 11 by the Hokies. Tech had five steals, and UVa had four.

But two areas where the Hoos outdid the Hokies were in free throws made and three-pointers made. Virginia shot 19-of-23 from the free throw line, versus 9-of-11 by the Hokies. The Cavaliers made 8-of-24 (33%) three pointers, while Tech made just 6-of-26 (22%). Those statistics helped UVa overcome a two-point field goal differential that favored the Hokies; Tech hit 25-of-42 from inside the arc, versus 19-of-36 for UVa.

The Cavaliers used the three-pointer to stake themselves to a 39-32 half time lead, hitting 6-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. VT looked sluggish defensively, as the Cavaliers found open look after open look and shot 59% (13-of-22) from the field in the half. Meanwhile, the Hokies clanked their way to a 1-of-11 three-point performance in the first half and fell behind by as many as 15, when Reynolds hit a three pointer with 2:55 remaining to make it 36-21, Virginia.

The Cavaliers were threatening to run away and hide at that point, but with Singletary on the bench with foul trouble, the Hokies exploded on an 11-3 run to close out the half. During the run Witherspoon hit a three-pointer, Vassallo hit a bucket, Jamon Gordon scored four points, and little-used backup center Cheick Diakite contributed an offensive rebound and a stick back for his only two points.

Despite the spurt, the Hokies started the second half off poorly, surrendering the first five points of the half and falling behind 44-32 with 19:08 to go. The Hokies finally came to life, though, and over the next 7:27, Tech went on a 20-6 run. The run was spurred by the fast break and helped by a switch from zone defense, which hadn’t worked well in the first half, to man-to-man. During the run, the Hokies hit two free throws and 8-of-11 shots from the field, knocking down two three-pointers, a dunk and three layups, as they beat the Cavaliers out in transition and got open looks at the basket. The Hokies’ run finally ended with a layup by Gordon that put Tech up 52-50 with 11:41 remaining.

At that point, the game settled into a back-and-forth affair, with neither team going up by more than two points in regulation. During that time, there were five ties and eight lead changes.

A jumper by Coleman Collins staked the Hokies to a 67-66 lead with 1:08 to go, and in the last minute, there were two noteworthy occurrences. First, Singletary hit a three-pointer with 53 seconds remaining. It was the Cavaliers’ first three-pointer of the second half, breaking a string of nine straight misses from beyond the arc. That put Virginia up 69-67.

Then, with 35 seconds left to go, Singletary fouled Gordon, who made both free throws to tie the game at 69. The free throws were Gordon’s first points in over 11 minutes.

Virginia failed to score on their last possession of regulation when Reynolds drove the lane, lost the ball, but recovered it to put up a shot from in close on the baseline with two seconds left. Tech’s Chris Tucker snared the rebound, and the game went into overtime.

In addition to scoring 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting (3-of-10 from three-point range), Vassallo led the Hokies with 7 assists. Tech was led in rebounding by Zabian Dowdell and Gordon, who both grabbed seven boards. Dowdell had a forgettable shooting night, though, hitting just 3-of-13 (1-of-5 three pointers) and scoring just 10 points. Gordon, meanwhile, notched his career high despite being slowed by a sore hip. Coleman Collins played 31 minutes but scored just six points on 2-of-6 shooting and grabbed just two rebounds.

One key stat: in their two losses to Virginia this year, the Hokies made just 9-of-47 three pointers (19.1%).

The loss drops the Hokies to 13-11 overall, 3-8 in the ACC. Virginia goes to 12-9, 6-5 in the ACC. Tech doesn’t play again until next Saturday, February 18th, when the Hokies host #15 North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are 18-4 overall, 8-2 in the ACC. The game will be at 1:00 and will be televised by ABC.

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