Virginia Tech led most of the way, gave up the lead late, then rallied to defeat No. 2 Virginia 61-60 in overtime in Charlottesville on Saturday night. It was one of the biggest wins in Tech basketball history. The Hokies improved to 18-7 on the season with the win, and they are now 7-5 in ACC play. The Hoos dropped to 23-2 overall and 12-1 in conference play.
Virginia was a 12-point favorite on Saturday, and rightfully so. They beat the Hokies 78-52 in Cassell Coliseum earlier this season, College Gameday was in town, and the Hoos were all set to be ranked No. 1 in the country this coming week with a victory over their in-state rivals. But it didn’t happen. The Hokies played their best defensive game of the year, and an offensive rebound and putback from Kerry Blackshear with 5.8 seconds remaining gave Tech the win. The teams have split the season series for three consecutive seasons. It was Virginia Tech’s first road win over a ranked opponent since they knocked off No. 15 UVA 47-45 back on January 22, 2012, in Seth Greenberg’s last year as Virginia Tech’s head coach.
The Hokies did a lot of things well in this game. Down 13-5 early on, they went on a 22-2 run to take a 27-15 lead, which was Virginia’s biggest deficit of the season. The Hokies led 33-26 at halftime, and held the lead for about 10 minutes more than UVA throughout the course of the game. However, they nearly lost it down the stretch thanks to bad free throw shooting by two good free throw shooters. As it turned out, the Hoos lost the game thanks in part to a pair of missed free throws by an elite free throw shooter.
With 20 seconds remaining in the game, Justin Robinson went to the free throw line for a one-and-one with his team leading 49-47. Robinson led Tech in scoring with 20 points, and he came into the game as a 77.3% free throw shooter. However, he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and UVA tied the game on a jumper by Ty Jerome with ten seconds left. After a Hokie turnover and a missed shot by Jerome, the two teams went to overtime.
Fast forward to late in the overtime period. UVA led 59-56 with 29 seconds remaining, and senior guard Devon Hall, a 93.4% free throw shooter coming into the game, went to the free throw line for a one-and-one. Hall made the first but missed the second, and the Hoos led 60-56. On the other end, Nickeil Alexander-Walker buried a three-pointer to bring the Hokies to within one, 60-59, with 20 seconds remaining.
UVA inbounded and Hall was fouled again, this time with 13 seconds left. He went to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the front end, which gave the Hokies the ball with a chance to win. Justin Robinson drove to the basket and missed missed what was a decent look, but Kerry Blackshear, who fought off three Virginia players, was there with the offensive rebound and putback. Blackshear, who finished with just seven points and who missed six wide open three-pointers, was also fouled on the play.
With Tech up 61-60 with 5.8 seconds remaining, Blackshear went to the line as a 74.3% free throw shooter. Like Robinson and Hall before him, Blackshear missed. UVA’s Ty Jerome pulled down the rebound, and the Hokies had to survive a final UVA possession. Fortunately Jerome put up a deep, rushed three-pointer that was close to the target, and the Hokies celebrated a huge 61-60 road victory that greatly enhances their NCAA Tournament resume.
It was not a particularly good offensive performance for either team. The Hokies shot 57.1% (12-21) from the field and 57.1% (8-14) from three-point range in the first half, but came back down to earth over the final 25 minutes. For the game, they were 22-of-51 (43.1%) overall and 11-of-29 (37.9%) from the outside. Defense was critical to Tech’s victory for the second game in a row.
After last weekend’s disappointing performance against Miami, Buzz Williams inserted Devin Wilson into the lineup and practiced only defense all week. Tech’s defensive performance was much better against NC State on Wednesday, and Wilson was on the court for 24 minutes of that game. He started against Virginia and was on the court for 31 minutes, coming up big with seven points and seven rebounds, including two big offensive rebounds, one of which was converted into two Hokie points on the first possession of the second half. But Wilson’s contributions transcend the box score, as Virginia Tech was much better defensively for the second game in a row with him playing a bigger role.
UVA was just 21-of-61 (34.4%) from the field and 11-of-38 (28.9%) from three-point range. Star guard Kyle Guy was just 5-of-21 from the field and 3-of-14 from the outside, while Ty Jerome was 4-of-14 overall and 1-of-10 from three-point range.
Virginia Tech also managed to outrebound UVA 37-36. Tech led for 21:24 of the 45 minutes. UVA led for just 11:09, while the game was tied for 12:27
Before Saturday’s game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Hokies in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed, while Jerry Palm of CBS had Tech as a No. 11 seed in one of the play-in games. Saturday night’s victory certainly helped to transform Virginia Tech’s resume.
The Hokies return to action on Wednesday night when they travel to Durham to take on #4 Duke. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.