Exactly one month following their upset of then-#1 UNC in Blacksburg, the Hokies did it again. This time they beat the #4 Tar Heels in the Dean Dome 81-80 in an overtime thriller. Virginia Tech is the first team since the 1995-96 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to win in Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Dean Dome in the same season. They are 3-0 against Duke and UNC this season. The victory takes their overall record to 18-7, and their ACC mark stands at 8-3. UNC drops to 22-4 and 8-3.
Tech’s win over UNC creates a three-way tie for second place in the ACC. The Hokies, UNC and UVA all have an 8-3 record in conference play. Virginia Tech currently holds the tiebreaker over both teams, with one game remaining against UVA. Boston College sits atop the ACC standings with a 9-2 record.
Zabian Dowdell scored 23 points against UNC earlier in the season, and he was even better on Tuesday night. The senior guard scored a career-high 33 points. He was 7-of-15 from the field and an amazing 17-of-19 from the free throw line. Dowdell nailed his last 14 free throws, including four in overtime, to lead Virginia Tech to the victory. He also had two assists and two steals.
Deron Washington had another good game, coming up with his second consecutive double-double. He finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. He added four assists, two steals and two blocks.
Jamon Gordon was the only other Tech player in double figures. He finished with 10 points, and four assists. Starting forward Lewis Witcher only played nine minutes because of foul trouble, but he came up big with four points and six rebounds. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end. Tech had 15 offensive rebounds for the game.
Cheick Diakite came off the bench to also play a big role in the victory. The sophomore forward finished with nine points, six rebounds, a block and a steal in 17 minutes of action.
This game was tight from the very beginning. Neither team managed to take a double digit lead during the course of the action. The biggest lead of the game for either team came in the first half when a shot by Zabian Dowdell put Tech up 21-13 with 8:59 left in the half.
A 21-9 UNC run over the remainder of the half put and end to that. When Wayne Ellington nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the half to put the Tar Heels up 34-30, they were entering halftime with the momentum. The Hokies played well in the first half, but it looked like UNC was taking control over the last few minutes of the half.
However, the Hokies came storming back in the second half, and a three-pointer by Deron Washington put Tech up 39-38 with 17:17 remaining in the game. UNC countered by going on a quick 8-0 run that was capped by a layup by Ty Lawson that made the score 46-39 at the 15:43 mark.
The run soon ended, but the Tar Heels kept the lead for most of the remainder of the half. Dowdell single-handedly kept Tech in the game, scoring eight consecutive Virginia Tech points at the free throw line. Despite his efforts, UNC still led 50-47 following the eighth free throw.
UNC kept pouring it on offensively, leading by seven points on two occasions. The Hokies fought back each time. With UNC leading 56-49, Cheick Diakite scored down low, and Washington followed it up with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 56-54. However, by the 6:47 mark UNC had built the lead back up to 68-61 following a shot by Tyler Hansbrough.
The Hokies battled back yet again, cutting the lead to 68-65, but the Tar Heels jumped back out to a 71-65 lead with 4:21 left in the game following a free throw by Hansbrough and a breakaway dunk by Reyshawn Terry. The rest of regulation belonged to the Hokies.
Coleman Collins got the late run started by grabbing an offensive rebound and sticking it back for a layup. He was fouled on the play and converted the free throw, cutting the lead to 71-68. Washington and Dowdell then scored back-to-back baskets, and the Hokies were up 72-71 with 2:35 left.
UNC’s freshman point guard, Ty Lawson, didn’t let his team stay down for long. On the ensuing possession, he drove the lane and dished to Danny Green, who was free for the easy layup. UNC was back on top 73-72 at the 2:28 mark. Only one more point was scored in the remainder of regulation, but it was a big one for the Hokies.
Deron Washington was fouled while shooting, but he was knocked down hard and injured on the play. Washington, a 58% free throw shooter heading into the game, had to exit the game because of the injury. Tech put in freshman guard Nigel Munson, who was 4-of-4 from the free throw line for the season coming into the game, to shoot the big shots. Munson missed the first free throw, but hit the second, tying the game at 73 with 36 seconds remaining.
UNC had time for one last shot, but Lawson’s three-pointer was no good, and the game headed to overtime.
Coleman Collins got things going for Tech in overtime, nailing a jumper to make the score 75-73. Just like the two teams did in regulation, they battled it out in overtime, with the lead changing hands on several occasions.
Zabian Dowdell lead the overtime charge for Tech. He converted two free throws to put the Hokies up 77-76, and then hit a basket to give them a 79-78 lead with 2:05 remaining in overtime. On UNC’s ensuing possession, Tyler Hansbrough was fouled and hit one of two free throws, tying the game at 79.
Zabian Dowdell went back to the free throw line on Tech’s next possession and calmly nailed both free throws, making it an 81-79 game with 1:27 left. Both teams exchanged missed shots, and finally Hansbrough went back to the line with 14 seconds remaining. For the second straight time, he hit only one of two free throws, and Tech kept an 81-80 lead.
The Hokies inbounded the ball and got it past midcourt when Markus Sailes was finally fouled with 7.6 seconds left. Sailes entered the game as a 44% free throw shooter, and he promptly missed both free throws.
UNC stormed down court, and Ty Lawson dribbled into traffic at the top of the key. He was nearly stripped by Zabian Dowdell, and then had his shot blocked by Deron Washington. The ball rolled free to Wayne Ellington, who fired up a three-pointer that hit nothing but net, but he clearly released the ball after the buzzer expired. The Hokies held on and celebrated in the Dean Dome, exactly as they did in Cassell Coliseum one month ago to the day.
Virginia Tech returns to the state of North Carolina on Sunday when they meet the NC State Wolfpack in the RBC Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 4pm, and the game will be carried by Raycom/Lincoln Financial Sports. Check your local listings.