Up by 21 points early in the second half, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team limped to the finish line against William and Mary, letting the Tribe get as close as eight points before finishing them off 74-64 in Cassell Coliseum Tuesday night. Coleman Collins notched his fifth double-double in the last seven games, posting 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Hokies in both categories.
On a night when fellow ACC members Boston College and Miami also posted lackluster victories over weak programs (BC beat 2-6 Duquesne 81-69, and Miami downed 0-9 Stetson 65-56), the Hokies raced off to a 49-28 lead early in the second half, then got outscored 36-25 the rest of the way, giving into fatigue as the Hokies’ ironman starters logged big minutes.
“For the first 25 minutes, I thought we played great,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “Then we just ran out of gas.”
Playing before an estimated crowd of 5,500 fans that didn’t include students (who are on Christmas break), Tech’s five starters once again all played 30 minutes or more, with Zabian Dowdell leading the way with 40 minutes and Collins with 38. The only Tech reserve to see significant minutes was freshman forward AD Vassallo, who played 17 minutes. No other Tech player played more than five.
The Hokies had hoped to get action for center Robert Krabbendam, who practiced for the first time Monday after knee surgery earlier this fall, but Krabbendam stayed on the bench all night. Fellow sophomore Wynton Witherspoon, whose foot injury (stress fracture) flared up on Tech’s trip to Las Vegas last week, also didn’t play a single minute. Freshman post player Cheick Diakite is suffering from an unspecified calf injury and played just one minute.
As noted by Greenberg, for the first 25 minutes this game went as expected, with the Hokies gaining firm control early and racing to a double-digit lead. Behind three early three-pointers by Zabian Dowdell, the Hokies went up 24-9 ten minutes into the game. W&M’s Adam Payton (20 points) scored eight points in the next four minutes to keep the Tribe from falling further behind, and with six minutes to go in the half, Tech led 28-19 after a Payton three-pointer.
Dowdell and Collins spurred another Tech burst that put the Hokies up 46-28 at half time. At that point, the Hokies were shooting 20-of-35 (57.1%), including 5-of-7 from three point range, and Collins and Dowdell were well into double figures, with 15 and 14 points respectively. William & Mary, on the other hand was a frigid 10-of-27 (37%), turned the ball over 10 times, and got outrebounded by the Hokies 20-15.
Tech scored the first three points of the second half to go up 49-28, their biggest lead of the game, then let the Tribe creep back into it. William & Mary went on a 12-3 run to close it to 52-40 with 13:43 remaining on a layup by Calvin Baker.
William & Mary kept it going, battling the Hokies the rest of the way and getting the deficit below ten points several times, the first coming when Payton hit a three-pointer to cut it to 56-47 with 9:40 left. W&M coach Tony Shaver drew a poorly-timed technical shortly afterwards when he protested a foul call on Payton. That enabled the Hokies to push the margin back to 60-47 on four straight free throws, and Vassallo (seven points) hit two more to make it 62-47 with 7:54 left.
The Tribe wouldn’t go away though, and behind the scoring and offensive rebounding of Laimis Kisielius and Corey Cofield, William & Mary trimmed the lead down to eight points, 68-60 with 1:46 to go. W&M couldn’t hit their three-pointers down the stretch, though, and Tech knocked down enough free throws (6 of 10) to stay ahead for the ten-point win.
William & Mary (5-5) outplayed the Hokies in the last 20 minutes, outscoring Tech 36-28, outrebounding them 19-13, and outshooting them 46.9% (15 of 32) to 36.8% (7 of 19). Despite shooting a mediocre 60% (15 of 25) from the free throw line, Tech held a seven point advantage over William & Mary (eight of nine).
Virginia Tech is now 9-3, their best 12-game start since 1995-96, and will head out now for three straight road games. The Hokies will have three days to get healthy and figure out how to play a full 40 minutes, before they face a tough 7-4 Old Dominion team in Norfolk. The game will be at 7 pm Friday and will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.