Hokies Survive UConn, Await Rhode Island

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Blacksburg, VA – Virginia Tech trailed by double digits for part of the first half, but stayed the course and pulled out a tough 65-63 win over UConn in Cassell Coliseum on Monday night. The win pushed Tech to 25-8 on the season, which tied a school record for wins. UConn finished their season with a disappointing 18-16 record.

Dorenzo Hudson paced Tech with 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting, and it was his shot from the left elbow that gave the Hokies a one point lead with just over 14 seconds remaining. Hudson also had seven rebounds in 37 minutes of action, and he helped keep his team in the game despite an off night from leading scorer Malcolm Delaney.

Delaney has been hit or miss recently. After blowing up on Georgia Tech in the final game of the regular season, he had just seven points against Miami in the ACC Tournament. He played well against Quinnipiac, but against UConn he scored only six points and was just 2-of-14 from the field, 0-of-5 from three-point range and 2-of-4 from the free throw line.

To his credit, Delaney didn’t let his poor shooting night affect his overall game. He dished out nine assists and came up with four rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.

J.T. Thompson was the only other player in double figures for the Hokies, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. He hit a huge three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half and cut UConn’s lead to five points. It was only the third three-pointer of his career.

Victor Davila also had a solid game for Tech. He scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds. He hit four critical free throws down the stretch to keep the Hokies in the game. Jeff Allen had just six points and three rebounds, which means Virginia Tech managed to get a win over a tough opponent without major contributions from Allen and Malcolm Delaney. However, Allen did come up with a huge block on UConn’s final possession to help his team win the game.

Though Delaney had an off night, UConn also got an off night from their leading scorer. Jerome Dyson did manage to score 15 points, but he was just 4-of-17 from the field and had five turnovers. Dyson also spent part of the game in foul trouble and played just 29 minutes.

UConn came into this game with a big size advantage over the Hokies, and it showed early. The Huskies jumped out to a 26-14 lead by the 7:07 mark of the first half, and Seth Greenberg received a technical foul in the process. Things didn’t look good for Tech at that point, and it seemed they were out-manned and out-talented by the bigger and more athletic UConn team.

Tech got things going before halftime, closing the half on a quick 7-2 run. It was J.T. Thompson’s three-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Hokies the momentum. Thompson nailed the jumper from the top of the key, cutting an eight point UConn lead into a 35-30 halftime deficit.

Tech was able to get back in the game when Seth Greenberg switched to a 2-3 zone late in the first half. UConn wasn’t able to get many quality to shots against that zone, and VT was able to climb back into the game.

The Hokies rode that momentum into the second half. Dorenzo Hudson scored 17 of his 27 points in the final 20 minutes. The Hokies opened the second half on an 11-2 run and took a 41-37 lead with 15:06 left. UConn coach Jim Calhoun returned the favor to Seth Greenberg and was T’d up early in the half.

From that point, the game was back and forth. Neither team led by more than five points in the second half. It was an even battle, but the Hokies had a few heroes step up down the stretch.

Victor Davila made four free throws in the final two minutes to keep his team in the game. A 51% free throw shooter coming in, Davila hit two shots from the charity stripe with 1:55 left to cut the UConn lead to 61-60, and then hit two more with 49 seconds left to cut the Huskies’ lead to 63-62.

After Davila’s last two free throws, the Hokies went with an extended 1-3-1 trap, and the Huskies promptly turned the ball over with a backcourt violation with 22 seconds left. Seth Greenberg called a timeout, and set up a shot that had been working all night – Dorenzo Hudson coming off a curl on the left elbow.

Hudson came off the curl about 17 feet away from the basket, was hit in stride by Malcom Delaney with the pass, elevated and nailed the jumper. That put the Hokies up 64-63 with just over 14 seconds left. UConn inbounded, advanced it past halfcourt, and Jim Calhoun called a timeout to set up a final shot with 11 seconds left.

The Huskies inbounded, and point guard Kemba Walker went up for a 17 foot jumper from the left wing. However, Jeff Allen was right there to block the shot. Walker retrieved and hit a wide open Gavin Edwards under the basket, but Edwards blew the layup. Terrell Bell came down with the rebound and was fouled with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.

Bell missed the first free throw, and the score remained 64-63 Hokies. He was instructed to miss the second shot, which would have forced UConn to heave the potential game winner from the opposite end of the court, if they were able to get the shot off at all. However, Bell accidentally made the free throw, giving Tech a 65-63 lead and the Huskies the ball.

UConn inbounded to halfcourt, but the shot was well short and wasn’t released in time anyway, and the Hokies held on for the big win.

Only eight teams remain in the NIT, and the Hokies are one of them. They will host #2 seed Rhode Island on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals at 7pm on ESPN2. If they win, they will advance to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden against either #4 seed UNC or #2 seed UAB.

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