Hokies Humble Heels, Beat #1 UNC 94-88

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For the second consecutive weekend, Virginia Tech knocked off one of the top programs in the country. This time #1 North Carolina, arguably the most talented team in the land, was the victim. The Hokies withstood a big UNC run over the last four minutes of the game to hold on for a 94-88 victory in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies are now 13-4 overall, and 3-0 in the ACC. UNC falls to 15-2, with a 2-1 mark in ACC play.

The win marked Seth Greenberg’s second victory over a #1 ranked team. In 1992, he coached Long Beach State to a 64-49 win at #1 Kansas, who was ironically coached by current UNC head coach Roy Williams.

Virginia Tech won this game because they got excellent production from their entire roster. The Hokies placed five players in double figures, led as usual by their outstanding senior backcourt of Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon.

Dowdell finished with 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He was 2-of-3 from three-point range, and 11-of-15 from the free throw line. He also dished out three assists and had four steals.

As usual, Jamon Gordon filled up the stat sheet. Gordon finished with 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. A.D. Vassallo came off the bench to also add 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a 2-of-4 effort from three-point range.

Coleman Collins, who struggled early in the season, scored in double figures for the fourth straight game. Collins had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line. He also added five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Freshman point guard Nigel Munson handled the spotlight well, finishing with 10 points and three assists in 17 minutes of action. Munson was 3-of-3 from the field, with two three-pointers. He had just one turnover.

The Hokies set the nets on fire with their hot shooting. They shot 30-of-57 from the field, good for 52.6%. They were also 7-of-13 from the three-point line for 53.8%. But their best effort came from the free throw line, where they went 27-of-38 for 71.1%.

The Tar Heels shot just 43.8% from the field, 30.8% from three-point range, and 55.2% from the free throw line. UNC shot 26 three-pointers, many more than they are used to because the Hokies did a great job denying the entry pass to the Tar Heels’ outstanding frontcourt of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright.

Early on, it certainly didn’t look like the Hokies were going to pull off arguably the biggest win in school history. UNC was able to get out in transition and score on the Hokies en route to opening up a 17-9 lead with 16:02 left in the game. Seth Greenberg spent his first timeout to stop the run, and when the Hokies returned to the court, they looked like a different team.

The Hokies played UNC even for the next few minutes, and found themselves trailing 21-13. But a Zabian Dowdell three-pointer with 12:49 remaining cut the lead to five, and it began a 17-0 Virginia Tech run that eventually gave the Hokies a 30-21 lead after a Jamon Gordon jumper with 7:48 left in the first half.

At the 3:02 mark of the first half, UNC cut the lead to 40-36 on a Brandan Wright jumper in the paint, but Tech responded with a quick 7-0 run. After a three-pointer, two free throws and a fast break jumper, all by Zabian Dowdell, the Hokies opened up their lead to 47-36. UNC added a free throw with 28 seconds remaining, and Tech went into halftime with a 47-37 lead over the #1 team in the nation.

The Tar Heels have been a second half team all season, but the Hokies grabbed them by the throat in the second half and wouldn’t let go. The half began with a big follow up dunk by Deron Washington on a missed jumper by Jamon Gordon to give Tech a 49-37 lead.

After UNC cut the lead to 49-40, the Hokies went on an 8-0 run. The run was capped by a big dunk by Coleman Collins with 14:46 left in the game to give the Hokies a 57-40 lead.

The Hokies gradually extended their lead, and went up by as many as 23 points on an A.D. Vassallo jumper with 10:18 remaining to make the score 72-49. Tech kept UNC at arm’s length for much of the remainder of the half, and led 81-61 at the 3:48 mark following a Zabian Dowdell free throw.

But UNC had a rally left in them. The Tar Heels began using a pressuring defense to get some easy baskets on the offensive end. UNC ripped off 27 points in final 3:48 of the game, and nearly came back. The Hokies had just 11 turnovers for the game, but six came in the final 5:39 of the game.

Things got really dicey with 16 seconds remaining, when outstanding Tar Heel freshman point guard Ty Lawson hit a free throw to cut the Tech lead to 91-88. Zabian Dowdell was fouled on the inbounds with 14 seconds remaining, and he managed to connect on one of two free throw attempts.

With Tech up 92-88, UNC sophomore small forward Danny Green fired up a three-pointer from the top of the key with six seconds remaining, but left it short. Jamon Gordon corralled the rebound and was fouled with four seconds left, and the Hokies had the game in hand. Gordon nailed both free throws to extend the lead to 94-88, UNC missed their final three-point attempt, and the final buzzer sounded, which sent the entire student section onto the court as ABC cameras filmed the entire scene.

The Hokies are one of just two teams in the ACC that have not lost a conference game. Boston College is the other. The Eagles are 4-0 in ACC play following a 78-73 win over Virginia on Saturday.

Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday, when they travel to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will not be televised.

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