Virginia Tech overcame a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Wake Forest 63-60 on Sunday in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies were sloppy at times, but got better as the game went on to win their ACC opener for the first time in school history. Tech improves to 7-3 overall and now stand 1-0 in ACC play. Wake Forest falls to 5-4 and 0-1 in the ACC.
The Hokies overcame a poor shooting effort from leading scorer Zabian Dowdell. Dowdell was just 2-of-13 from the field. However he was 10-of-13 from the free throw line and finished with 14 points, a team-high. He also had five rebounds, four assists, three steals and just one turnover.
A.D. Vassallo came off the bench to give the Hokies a big boost. The sophomore forward also had 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Jamon Gordon scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but left the game in the second half with a knee injury.
Deron Washington was a major contributor to the victory as well. Washington finished with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds. He hit a critical three-pointer late in the second half on a very important possession. Robert Krabbendam came off the bench and played his best game of the season with three points and five rebounds.
The Hokies shot just 39.2% for the game, thanks in large part to Dowdell’s 11 missed shots. The Demon Deacons shot 46.7% from the field, but were just 4-of-17 from three-point range (23.5%). The Hokies won the game at the free throw line. Tech was just 20-of-32 from the charity stripe for 62.5%, but Wake was even worse, hitting just 14-of-25 free throws for 56%.
Virginia Tech started very slowly on the offensive end. Wake Forest jumped out to an 8-0 lead on a three-pointer by Jamie Skeen with 15:33 left in the first half. The Hokies didn’t get on the scoreboard until A.D. Vassallo hit a three-pointer at the 15:05 mark to make the score 8-3.
Virginia Tech never led in the first half, but they also never stopped playing defense. The Hokies shot just 34.5% from the field in the first half, but managed to stay in the game because they forced 10 Wake Forest turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
The Hokies were better offensively in the second half, and they were also better on the glass. Wake out-rebounded Tech 19-11 in the first half, but Tech returned the favor in the second half, out-rebounding the Demon Deacons 21-13.
The Hokies took their first lead of the game at the 12:40 mark of the second half on a layup by A.D. Vassallo to make the score 38-37. Wake answered with a basket to go back up by one, but that was the last time they led. At the 10:45 mark, Vassallo got a steal on the defensive end and passed to Zabian Dowdell, who found Jamon Gordon at the other end of the court for a breakaway dunk. Tech went up 40-39.
With nine minutes remaining, the Hokies extended their lead to six points when Markus Sailes found a wide open Deron Washington for a three-pointer to make the score 45-39. The Hokies led by as many as seven points when Zabian Dowdell hit a free throw with 1:55 remaining to make the score 56-49.
The Hokies tried to make it interesting down the stretch with their free throw shooting. Tech was a perfect 5-of-5 against Wake in the first half. After going 11-of-11 in the second half against Appalachian State, they had connected on 16 consecutive free throws. But they hit just 15-of-27 (55.6%) in the second half against Wake Forest.
Even A.D. Vassallo and Zabian Dowdell, who entered the game fourth and fifth in the ACC respectively in free throw shooting, missed shots down the stretch. At one point Vassallo missed three in a row, and Dowdell also missed two in the final 1:55.
With 0.7 seconds showing on the clock and Tech up 63-60, Wake had a chance to tie the game. But Jamie Skeen’s three-point heave from approximately 30 feet away was off, and the Hokies held on for the victory.
Jamon Gordon left the game midway through the second half with a knee injury, after making a breakaway layup. Gordon said he felt the knee “buckle,” and he played a little more before being removed and heading to the locker room. The injury was diagnosed as a sprain, and it’s not known how long it will affect him, or if he’ll miss any playing time.
The Hokies have won three in a row and look to make it four when they return to action on Thursday against Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.