Virginia Tech fought back from a 15-point halftime deficit to take a second half lead, but ultimately fell to in-state rival UVA in the closing seconds by the final score of 56-53. The Hokies dropped to 15-13 overall and 6-11 in the ACC with loss, while the Cavaliers improved to 20-7 overall and 12-5 in league play.
The first half was as bad as it could get offensively for the Hokies, who scored only 11 points over the first 20 minutes. Tech was 5-of-24 (20.8%) from the field and 1-of-13 (7.7%) in the first half, and did not make a single trip to the free throw line. The Hokies hung in there and played good defense, but still found themselves down 26-11 at halftime. The 11 points marked the lowest-scoring half for the Hokies since they joined the ACC.
The second half was a different story as Tech came out firing on all cylinders. The Hokies scored on their first five possessions of the half, and put up a total of 42 points on the No. 2 ranked team in adjusted defensive efficiency. They were 14-of-27 (51.8%) from the field, 8-of-14 (57.1%) from three-point range, and 6-of-7 (85.7%) from the free throw line.
“We shot 20% in the first half and we were miserable going down by 15 [points],” Mike Young said. “We had great shots in the first half and had the same shots in the second that we had in the first. We just happened to get the second half shots to go down.”
The Hokies slowly chipped away at the UVA lead in the second half and finally succeeded in taking a lead of their own when Hunter Cattoor hit a three-pointer to make the score 47-46 with 4:51 remaining. UVA briefly regained the lead, but then Tyrece Radford scored a layup and Landers Nolley made a pair of free throws to make the score 51-48 with 3:31 remaining.
UVA turned the ball over on their ensuing possession, and Tech had the ball back up three with three minutes left. However, instead of adding to the lead, the Hokies had three straight empty possessions. First Nolley was called for an offensive foul, and UVA responded by scoring to cut the lead to 51-50. Then Jalen Cone missed a three-pointer on what could be considered a bad shot early in the shot clock, and UVA responded by draining a three to go back up 53-51. On Tech’s next possession, Tyrece Radford missed a 16-footer that was again taken too early in the shot clock.
Still, Tech got two stops after Radford’s miss, and it was Radford who drove the lane for the game tying layup with just over 11 seconds on the clock. The game was tied at 53, and UVA head coach Tony Bennett elected not to call a timeout for his team’s final possession. Starting point guard Kihei Clark never passed the ball, electing to take a step back three-pointer from an angle over Jalen Cone, and it went in with 2.6 seconds left. The Hokies got a last second shot from Landers Nolley from near halfcourt, but it was no good, and UVA won 56-53.
“[In the second half we had] just a better level of movement and ball movement, but at some point, you just have to get the ball in the basket,” Young said, referring to Tech’s performance in the first half. “It puts too much pressure on your defense if you don’t. It’s a much easier game, it’s a better officiated game, when the ball is going in the basket. There’s no consolation in getting your ears pinned back, but Virginia fought. The Hokies fought. That was a really good college basketball game, and I wish we could have gotten a better shake there at the end, wish we could have made a couple more plays.”
The Hokies return to action on Sunday when they travel to Louisville. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm, and the game will be televised by the ACC Network. Check your local listings.
Selected Game Notes From Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech started a lineup of Wabissa Bede, Tyrece Radford, Isaiah Wilkins, John Ojiako, and Nahiem Alleyne, marking the first time all season Tech has started these five. This is Wilkins third start all season and Ojiako’s first career start.
Nolley led Tech in scoring for the 15th time this season and reached double figures in points for the 24th time.
PJ Horne hit three 3-pointers, tying his second-highest performance from downtown this season.
Cattoor nailed two triples against UVA, giving him eight over his last four, averaging two 3s a game.