Blacksburg, VA – Virginia Tech’s season came to an end on Monday night with a 79-72 loss to Rhode Island in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT for the second time in three years, and finished the year with a 25-9 record. The Rams improved to 26-9, and they will advance to Madison Square Garden to play North Carolina.
The Hokies led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but their shooting faltered down the stretch and the Rams were able to rally. Virginia Tech shot 26-of-54 (48.1%) for the game. However, they made just two of their last 20 shot attempts after starting the game 24-of-34 from the field.
Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies with 24 points. He was 5-of-17 from the field, and missed his last eight shot attempts. He was 12-of-13 from the free throw line, while finishing with four assists and a steal.
Dorenzo Hudson added 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting. The Hokies hit just two field goals in the last 16 minutes of the game, and Hudson had one of them. The other belonged to Jeff Allen, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 7-of-10 from the field.
Tech outrebounded Rhode Island 35-29, but they had 16 turnovers while the Rams had just 10. Those six extra possessions made a big difference for the visiting team, who outscored Virginia Tech 24-12 in points off turnovers.
Rhode Island began the game with two three-pointers and led the early portions of the game, but Virginia Tech’s hot shooting eventually got the Hokies back in it. VT trailed 17-11 with 12:58 remaining in the half before going on a 13-0 run to take a 24-17 lead. Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson hit three consecutive three-pointers during the run, two by Delaney and one by Hudson. Tech hit just one more three-pointer the rest of the game.
Rhode Island never led again for the rest of the half, though they tied the game on two occasions and kept pace with the Hokies. Virginia Tech held a 42-40 lead heading into halftime.
The lead could have been larger, but with 0.7 seconds left in the half, Jeff Allen threw away an inbounds pass, and Rhode Island took possession of the ball on their side of the court, in front of the Tech bench. The Rams threw a lob into the paint, and Delroy James caught it and laid it in at the buzzer.
It looked like Tech decided to take over early in the second half. The Hokies hit their first seven shots of the half to extend their lead to 58-48. Little did they know that after Dorenzo Hudson’s three-pointer with 16:07 remaining, they would hit just two field goals the remainder of the game.
Malcolm Delaney’s two free throws at the 14:43 mark extended Virginia Tech’s lead to 60-48, and it looked like they would win comfortably.
However, that’s when the Hokies started missing shots. J.T. Thompson stole the ball near midcourt on Rhode Island’s next possession, but couldn’t corral it for a layup. Thompson got control of the ball and went up for a short jumper, but Delroy James blocked it, and that started the Hokies’ long 2-of-20 drought.
The defense of the Rams stepped up a notch, and the Hokies weren’t able to get as many good shots. Tech also wasn’t able to get out and score in transition like they were in earlier parts of the game. The Hokies were able to stay in the game at the charity stripe, knocking down 10 free throws in the final 16 minutes. However, that wasn’t enough to beat a good Rhode Island team.
The Rams took their first lead at the 11:05 mark on a dunk by Lamonte Ulner that completed a 13-0 run and put URI up 61-60. Rhode Island held the advantage from that point on, though Tech did have a shot to come back late in the game.
Dorenzo Hudson hit a floater in the lane with 2:50 remaining to tie the game at 71 and give the Hokies a fighting chance down the stretch. However, that was Tech’s last field goal of the game.
The back breaker came with 10.8 seconds left. With Rhode Island leading 73-71, Lamonte Ulmer drove the baseline, missed, got his own rebound, and banked it in for a 75-71 lead.
Delaney took the inbounds pass, sped down court and was fouled with just over six seconds remaining. Delaney had a chance to cut the lead to two points, but he missed one of two free throws – his first and only miss from the line on the night – to make the score 75-72.
The Rams then coolly knocked down their final four free throws of the game and walked out of Cassell Coliseum with a 79-72 win. It was just Tech’s second loss in Cassell Coliseum this season, against 17 wins.
The Hokies finished the year with a 25-9 record, which tied a school record for wins in a season. The 1994-95 Hokies, who won the NIT, finished 25-10.