With so many close losses on the season, the Virginia Tech Hokies finally had one go their way in the closing seconds. With the game tied at 62, Georgia Tech’s D’Andre Bell missed the game winning shot, but Jeremis Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and scored, apparently winning the game for the Yellow Jackets. But the whistle blew and Morrow was called for going over the back of Deron Washington with 0.5 seconds left in the game. Washington went to the free throw line, hit the first free throw, and missed the second on purpose to prevent a long inbounds pass. Georgia Tech was unable to get off a final shot, and the Hokies held on for a 63-62 victory.
The free throw capped a 21 point, six rebound performance from Washington, who missed the Wake Forest game after being suspended following his oft-mentioned incident with Duke’s Lee Melchionni last Thursday night. He scored in a variety of ways for the Hokies, including free throws, jumpers from the wing, layups and one high-flying dunk.
Washington also did something that he isn’t known for doing … hit three-pointers. Coming into the game he was just 1-of-13 from three-point range on the season, but he hit 2-of-3 shots from beyond the arc on Tuesday night. The Hokies went to a smaller lineup because of the absence of center Coleman Collins, and Washington, a natural small forward, was able to play on the perimeter much more than usual. He responded in a big way, hitting two three-pointers, a jumper from the wing, and scoring on a driving layup. He shot 8-of-11 overall from the field.
Washington, who was averaging 10.9 points per game coming into the contest, stepped up his game. Georgia Tech’s leading scorer, Anthony Morrow, struggled in a big way. Morrow came into the game averaging 16.8 points per game and is one of the ACC’s top three-point shooters at 42%. However he scored just five points against the Hokies on Tuesday night and was 1-of-4 from behind the arc. Overall Morrow was just 2-of-8 from the field in 32 minutes of action.
As expected, Georgia Tech dominated the Hokies depleted frontcourt on the inside. Against two of the ACC’s best interior players, Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey, the Hokies started Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell, Wynton Witherspoon, A.D. Vassallo and Deron Washington. The biggest of those players is A.D. Vassallo at 213 pounds, and he is a small forward.
Because of this mismatch, the Yellow Jackets crushed the Hokies on the boards 45-27. At halftime they held a 21-9 advantage in rebounding margin. Jeremis Smith recorded a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Dicky scored a team-high 21 points to go along with nine boards. Georgia Tech outscored Virginia Tech 24-22 in the paint and 13-2 in second chance points.
To counter that statistic, the Hokies did what they do best … protect the basketball and force turnovers. Tech committed just nine turnovers for the game and forced 17 Yellow Jacket miscues. They outscored Georgia Tech 10-4 in fastbreak points and 25-4 in points off turnovers. The Hokies had just three second half turnovers, while GT had 10 in the final 20 minutes.
The Hokies also got a good performance from Zabian Dowdell. Dowdell has been struggling with his shot recently, but he did go 6-of-13 from the field during this game and 2-of-4 from three-point range. He finished the game with 15 points, and also added three assists and a steal. A.D. Vassallo had 13 points for Tech, and Wynton Witherspoon added 11.
Jamon Gordon only scored three points during the game, but he filled up the stat sheet in every other way possible. He pulled down six rebounds and dished out seven assists, while turning the ball over just once. He also added a steal.
The game featured a number of big runs, with each team threatening to run away with the game, only to see their opponent come back. The Hokies made the first run, getting out to an 8-2 lead on a three-pointer from Vassallo with 16:52 left in the first half. The Hokies would gradually extend that lead to 10 points, taking a 25-15 lead on a Deron Washington layup at the 9:46 mark. But the lead would not last long.
Early in the game, the Hokies were packing the inside defensively to take away Dickey and Smith, and the strategy worked perfectly. They were not getting any touches on the inside, and the Yellow Jackets were not hitting their outside shots. But that changed quickly. Georgia Tech hit three quick three-pointers after the Hokies went up by 10.
The first came from guard D’Andre Bell with 8:59 remaining to cut the lead to 25-20. Then Zam Frederick hit another to cut the lead to 25-23 at the 7:27 mark. To cap the run, Lewis Clinch nailed another with 6:52 remaining before halftime to put Georgia Tech up 26-25.
The lead would grow gradually for the Yellow Jackets throughout the rest of the half, and Anthony Morrow hit a jumper with two seconds remaining to give his team a 37-32 lead at halftime. The Hokies scored just seven points in the final 9:46 of the half, and Georgia Tech outscored them 22-7 in that span.
Four of Georgia Tech’s five three-pointers came in the final 8:59 of the first half, and their fifth and final shot from the outside came early in the second half. Frederick hit another from downtown at the 18:29 mark, and then Ra’Sean Dickey hit a layup shortly thereafter to put the Yellow Jackets up 42-34. Things looked bleak for the Hokies, who had started out so strong. They had scored just nine points since their 25-15 lead in the first half.
But Georgia Tech’s lead would not last. The Hokies went on a quick 7-0 run that was capped by an A.D. Vassallo three-pointer with 15:27 remaining to cut the lead to 42-41. Theodis Tarver then hit a layup to put GT back up 44-41, but the Hokies, not known for their three-point shooting, hit two more from the outside. The first came from Zabian Dowdell, who tied the game at 44. Then Deron Washington hit one from the wing at the 12:52 mark to put the Hokies up 47-44. The game would be tied twice more, but VT never trailed again.
Georgia Tech quickly came back to tie the game at 48, but the Hokies went on their final run of the game. It was an 11-0 run that lasted until the 7:15 mark and was capped by a thunderous Deron Washington dunk on a fastbreak. Wynton Witherspoon scored seven points during the run. First he hit two free throws, and then scored on a layup on the next possession. When Georgia Tech got the ball back, Marcus Sailes got a steal, passed it ahead to Witherspoon, who hit a layup and was fouled. Witherspoon converted the free throw to make the score 57-48 VT, and after Washington’s dunk, Tech led 59-48 with 7:15 to go.
But that would be the last field goal the Hokies would make during the game, and it almost cost them in the end. Georgia Tech outscored VT 14-4 down the stretch, with the only Tech points coming at the free throw line.
The game was tied at 62 on a Ra’Sean Dickey layup with 50 seconds remaining. Zabian Dowdell turned the ball over on Tech’s ensuing possession when trying to drive down the lane, and the Yellow Jackets had the ball for the last shot with 16 seconds remaining on the clock. D’Andre Bell’s three-pointer was just off, and then Smith was whistled for an over-the-back foul on the rebound, sending Washington to the line for his game winning free throw.
The Hokies have now won two games in a row and stand at 12-9 overall and 2-6 in the ACC. Georgia Tech drops to 9-10 and 2-6 in conference play. Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday night when they host Boston College. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm and the game will not be televised.