In a fitting ending to its season, Virginia Tech suffered yet another close defeat to in-state rival Virginia. The Hokies lost to UVA 60-56 in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and Tech’s final record stands at 14-16. In three meetings with Virginia this season, the Hokies lost three games by a total of 13 points. UVA advances to the second round, where they will face #2 seed North Carolina.
Virginia beat the Hokies on Thursday night in much the same way they did in the first two meetings…they out-shot and out-rebounded Tech. VT and UVA were virtually equal from the field overall, with Tech hitting 23-of-54 shots (42.6%), and the Cavs converting 19-of-45 (42.2%) from the field. The difference came from the three-point line and the free throw line.
Tech was just 2-of-11 (18.2%) from three-point range, missing numerous open looks. The Hoos were 5-of-12 (41.7%) from the outside. Virginia also got to the free throw line more than the Hokies. Although the Cavaliers didn’t shoot well from the charity stripe, hitting 17-of-29 for 58.6%, they got to the line more than Tech, and shot better than the Hokies. VT was just 8-of-16 from the free-throw line, a mark of 50%.
For the second consecutive game, Virginia Tech failed to get production from their frontcourt. Coleman Collins scored just five points and grabbed two rebounds in 31 minutes of action. He shot just 2-of-9 from the field and committed five turnovers. UVA freshman forward Laurynas Mikalauskas had 11 points and 12 rebounds, thoroughly outplaying the older, more experienced Collins. Collins’ frontcourt mate, Deron Washington, didn’t fare any better. Washington scored just three points and had five rebounds.
However the Hokies got a lot of production from the unlikeliest of sources. Senior Shawn Harris, who entered the ACC Tournament having appeared in just 14 games this season, scored a season-high 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Unfortunately Harris was just 1-of-5 from the free throw line. He also added three steals and did not commit a turnover. The Hokies were led in scoring by Zabian Dowdell, who had 15 points. Dowdell and Harris were the only Tech players to score in double figures.
Like the two previous meetings with Virginia, the Hokies won many battles on the stat sheet, but ultimately lost the war. VT outscored UVA 38-24 in the paint, 20-11 off turnovers, 15-9 in second chance points, 16-7 in fast break points and a whopping 24-2 in bench points. UVA did out-rebound Virginia Tech 38-31. Markus Sailes led Tech in rebounding with eight, including six on the offensive end.
In a game similar to the meeting in Charlottesville earlier in the year, the Hokies got off to a poor start. Tech missed six of it’s first eight shot attempts and turned the ball over three times in the process. By the 13:48 mark of the first half, UVA had jumped out to a 13-4 lead. That nine point margin would be their largest of the first half.
Virginia Tech finally got things together and went on a 15-4 run, and eventually took the lead. Virginia hit just two field goals during the run, both by J.R. Reynolds on back-to-back possessions. Shawn Harris sparked the Tech run. He scored seven points during the run, and his three-pointer with 9:52 remaining in the half put the Hokies up 19-17. It was the first time Tech had the lead during the game, but it did not last long.
A free throw by Reynolds put UVA up 22-21 with 6:24 left in the half, and the Cavs led for the remainder of the half. They stretched their lead back out to as many as six points, and went into halftime holding a 32-27 edge over the Hokies.
Virginia immediately jumped out on the Hokies to start the second half. By the 18:14 mark, the Hoos had pushed their lead out to 38-28. VT started the second half exactly as they did the first, and it eventually helped cost them the game. But that didn’t stop them from making a rally in the second half.
At the 10:45 mark, Shawn Harris scored on a layup that tied the game at 45. The Hokies would later go up 49-46 on two free throws by Zabian Dowdell with 9:11 remaining. From the point where UVA led 38-28 until Dowdell’s two free throws, the Hokies outscored the Cavaliers 21-8. The Cavs went on a quick 4-0 run to reclaim a one-point lead, but Deron Washington drained a three-pointer from the wing to put Virginia Tech back up 52-50 with 7:24 left in the game.
The game was scoreless for over a minute, until Zabian Dowdell hit a jumper to put Tech up 54-50 with 6:09 left in the game. From that point in the game, Virginia would outscore the Hokies 10-2 down the stretch. VT hit just one shot in the final 6:09 of the game, another jumper from Dowdell that put VT up 56-55 at the 2:24 mark.
Virginia eventually fought their way back into the lead, and the Hokies were unable to do anything offensively down the stretch. The end of the game was remarkably similar to the Tech-UVA game on January 15 in Blacksburg. In that game, VT led 49-44 with 3:39 remaining, but UVA put a 10-0 run on Tech to end the game and came away with a 54-49 win. Nearly the same thing happened on Thursday night, with UVA beating Tech 10-2 over the final 6:09. But the Hokies certainly had their chances.
Trailing 57-56, Jamon Gordon missed an open three-point look from the wing with 1:12 remaining. The Hoos grabbed the rebound and missed a shot, but Mikalauskas got the offensive rebound. He was fouled, hit one of two free throws, and UVA held a 58-56 lead with 36 seconds remaining. On the other end, Zabian Dowdell missed a runner in the lane, and the Hokies fouled Adrian Joseph with 19 seconds left on the clock.
Joseph also made one of two free throws, and the Hokies still had a chance, trailing 59-56. Tech got the ball and ran a play that gave A.D. Vassallo a wide open three-pointer, but he missed with 11 seconds left. UVA got the rebound, Reynolds hit one of two free throws on their end, and the game ended with a 60-56 win for the Hoos, who improved to 15-13 on the season.