Virginia Tech suffered another heartbreaking loss on Tuesday night, falling 64-61 to #20 North Carolina at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies had a chance to tie the game at the end, but Deron Washington’s three-pointer from the corner clanked off the front of the rim to preserve the win for the Tar Heels. The loss drops Tech to 10-6 overall and 0-3 in the ACC. UNC improves to 10-2 and 2-0 in conference play. The defeat is Tech’s fifth close loss of the season, with those five losses coming by a total of 15 points.
The Hokies knew coming into the game that they would have to create turnovers to have a chance to win. They forced 25 North Carolina turnovers and committed just 12, yet could not manage to win the game. The Tar Heels outrebounded Tech 39-26 and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. Despite the large difference, Tech outscored UNC 9-6 in second chance points, partly because they had 11 offensive rebounds of their own.
In the anticipated matchup between post players Coleman Collins and Tyler Hansbrough, Hansbrough was the clear winner. The UNC freshman scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He was 6-of-8 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Collins, Tech’s leading scorer and rebounder, took just five shots. He scored seven points and had just three rebounds.
Poor free throw shooting was also a factor in Virginia Tech’s loss. The Hokies hit their first four attempts, but finished just 10-of-19 for the game.
Sophomore small forward Wynton Witherspoon led the Hokies in scoring for the second consecutive game. He finished with 17 points and shot 7-of-16 from the field. He also grabbed three rebounds and recorded three steals. Junior guard Jamon Gordon played a great all-around game for Tech. He scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, recorded four assists and had three steals.
Zabian Dowdell scored 13 points for the Hokies, but missed all four of his three-point attempts and shot just 6-of-16 from the field. As a team the Hokies shot just 3-of-12 from three-point range, and one of the makes was Deron Washington’s first three-pointer of the year. The other two shots from downtown came from Witherspoon.
The Hokies came out strong in the early portions of the game. Wynton Witherspoon scored Tech’s first seven points of the game to put his team up 7-2 with 18:11 remaining in the first half. The Hokies would keep extending that lead until it reached 19-9 with 14:25 left in the half. But with 13:30 showing on the clock and Tech still holding the 19-9 lead, Jamon Gordon committed his second foul of the game and went to the bench. Virginia Tech’s offense would not run as smoothly without Gordon in the game.
UNC went on a run and slowly got back into the game. It was a gradual run that lasted until the 8:42 mark of the half. The Tar Heels outscored the Hokies 16-1 during the stretch, giving them a 25-20 lead. Tech’s lone point would come on a free throw by Markus Sailes. That would represent the only point the Hokies got from their bench for the entire game. The UNC reserves scored 16 points.
The Hokies promptly went on a 6-0 run that would put them back up 26-25 after a Jamon Gordon free throw at the 7:30 mark. The game would be nip and tuck for the remainder of the half, and UNC found themselves with the ball and a 31-30 lead with time winding down. At that point, backup guard Wes Miller, a transfer from James Madison, found Danny Green near the top of the key for a three-pointer that extended the lead to 34-30 at the intermission.
Virginia Tech opened the second half exactly as they did the first by scoring the first seven points. After a dunk by Deron Washington at the 16:08 mark, the Hokies led 37-34. The Tar Heels would not regain the lead until the 9:27 mark of the game when Wes Miller hit a three-pointer from the wing to put UNC up 51-48. They would never trail again.
The Hokies would cut the lead to one point on three different occasions and to two points on five occasions, but they could never manage to regain the lead. Tech could never manage to get a defense stop after they scored a basket, and could never manage to convert on the offensive end after they recorded a defensive stop.
Reyshawn Terry scored five consecutive points during one stretch to keep the Hokies at bay. After Miller’s three-pointer put the Tar Heels up 51-48, Zabian Dowdell responded with a driving layup to cut the lead to 51-50. On the next UNC possession, the 6-8 Terry found himself guarded underneath by the 6-3 Dowdell, and made the mismatch work to his advantage with an easy dunk to extend the lead to 53-50.
Virginia Tech would answer on the next possession when Dowdell hit a jumper in the lane to cut the lead to one, but Terry hit a three-pointer on UNC’s next possession to make the score 56-52 in favor of the Tar Heels. The Hokies forced three turnovers on the next three UNC possessions, but could only convert them into two points.
The game would stay very close until the end. Jamon Gordon scored on a layup with 49 seconds remaining to make the score 61-59 UNC. Then came the most frustrating stretch of the game for Virginia Tech. Wes Miller missed a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining, but Reyshawn Terry grabbed the offensive rebound. He put back attempt failed, but UNC point guard Bobby Frasor recorded the second offensive rebound of the possession for the Tar Heels. He got the ball back to Terry, who was fouled by Coleman Collins.
But UNC’s offensive rebound show wasn’t over. Terry missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Tyler Hansbrough outmuscled the Hokies for the offensive rebound with nine seconds remaining. He was fouled immediately and he converted both free throws to put UNC up 63-59. It was a crucial 13 second stretch for the Hokies, who allowed three offensive rebounds and two free throws rather than being able to hold the ball for the final shot.
The Hokies still had some fight in them however. Wynton Witherspoon hit a layup with 1.6 seconds remaining, and UNC’s Marcus Ginyard was fouled with 0.8 seconds remaining on the clock. He missed the first free throw, but hit the second, and the Hokies had a chance to tie. The Hokies first tried a deep pass that was deflected out of bounds by a UNC player with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. Tech inbounded from half court, but Washington’s buzzer beater from the corner was no good.
The Hokies return to action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Virginia Cavaliers. Tip-off is scheduled for 4pm and the game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot/Raycom.