Virginia Tech used a great defensive performance and a dominating rebounding effort to defeat the #5 seed Miami Hurricanes 63-49 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Friday afternoon. The Hokies notched an all-important win over a Top 50 RPI team, improving their chances of making the NCAA tournament. They’ll face the #1 team in the land, the North Carolina Tar Heels, Saturday afternoon in the semifinals.
A quick look at the box score reveals how Virginia Tech won this game. Miami was just 18-of-57 from the field for 31.6%. That includes a 6-of-22 (28.6%) performance from three-point range. The ‘Canes didn’t get very many good shots against Tech’s suffocating defense.
Jack McClinton, Miami’s leading scorer and a First Team All-ACC player, scored 16 points. However, he was just 4-of-17 from the field and 3-of-11 from three-point range.
The other reason the Hokies won the game was their dominating rebounding. Tech out-rebounded Miami 51-25. In their one meeting during the regular season, Miami out-rebounded the Hokies 35-20. It was quite a reversal of course on Friday afternoon.
A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney led Virginia Tech with 15 points each. They combined for 17 of Tech’s first 19 points. Delaney had eight of the Hokies’ first 10 points. He was 4-of-5 from three-point range. As a team, Tech was 7-of-15 from the outside for the game.
Vassallo was just 1-of-5 from three-point range, an off game for him, but he also finished with five rebounds, five assists, no turnovers, and played very well defensively.
Deron Washington played just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but still finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. 12 points and 10 rebounds came in the second half. He wasn’t the only Hokie to post a double-double. Jeff Allen had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Tech got off to a hot start, with Malcolm Delaney nailing a pullup jumper from the free throw line just 11 seconds into the game. He wasn’t finished, nailing two three-pointers over the next several minutes, putting the Hokies up 10-5 at the first media timeout. He scored eight of Tech’s first 10 points. Then A.D. Vassallo started warming up.
After Delaney carried the team for the first few minutes, Vassallo stepped up, scoring Virginia Tech’s next nine points. Following his jumper in the lane with 10:38 left in the half, it was 19-11 Virginia Tech. A J.T. Thompson jumper shortly thereafter made it 21-13, but then the Hokies went into a slump.
Thompson’s jumper came with 9:57 remaining in the half, but the Hokies didn’t score again until Vassallo hit a jumper with 2:43 left. That’s over seven minutes without scoring, but Tech’s defense still played very well during that stretch, and the game was tied at 23 after Vassallo’s jumper.
Miami did not score for the remainder of the half, while Jeff Allen scored his first points on a layup with four seconds remaining. That gave the Hokies a 27-23 lead heading into the halftime intermission.
The early part of the second half was nip and tuck. The game was tied on three different occasions, and Miami led 42-41 with 9:37 remaining in the game.
A three-pointer by Delaney put Tech up 44-42 with 8:38 remaining, and although it wasn’t clear at the time, that shot was the beginning of the end for the Hurricanes. It got Tech started on an 18-2 run that was capped by a free throw from Delaney that put Tech up 59-44 with 2:12 left in the game. From there, they coasted to the easy victory.
The Hokies played ferocious defense during the run, and Deron Washington sparked his team with a three-pointer from the corner to cap an all-around excellent day of basketball from the senior wing.
Virginia Tech has been playing very good basketball as of late, winning five of their last six games. Their last three wins have been by 19 over Boston College, by 22 over Wake Forest, and now by 14 over Miami. Their one loss in that span was last Sunday’s one-point setback on the road at #24 Clemson.
Despite the hot streak, the Hokies’ ticket to the Big Dance is not punched. Whether or not they make the NCAA tournament is still very much up in the air. However, a win tomorrow over #1 UNC would almost certainly change that. The Tar Heels beat the Hokies 92-53 in their only meeting of the season, but Tech has run off five wins in six games since then.
This is the second season in a row that the Hokies have made the ACC tournament semifinals. Last year they fell to NC State 72-64.
Tip-off for tomorrow’s semifinal matchup is scheduled for 1:30pm. It will be televised by Raycom in the ACC area, and will be carried by ESPN throughout the rest of the country.