These types of losses weren’t supposed to happen this year to a Virginia Tech basketball team that is loaded with seniors and experience. But it did. The Hokies fell to Western Michigan 71-68 in their first game of the Old Spice Classic on Thanksgiving night. Tech drops to 2-1 on the season, while the Broncos improve to 2-2. The Hokies are 0-5 all-time against Western Michigan.
Jamon Gordon was Virginia Tech’s leading scorer with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He also tied for the team lead with five rebounds. Small forward Deron Washington added 17 for the Hokies, while senior guard Zabian Dowdell had 16.
While the starting backcourt and wing played well enough to win the game, the frontcourt did virtually nothing. Coleman Collins had five points and five rebounds. He had zero offensive rebounds for the game. Robert Krabbendam had two points and three rebounds. Western Michigan center Joe Reitz had 17 points and eight rebounds by himself.
The Hokies were out-rebounded by Western Michigan 31-26. Dowdell and Gordon, Virginia Tech’s starting backcourt, combined for more rebounds (10) than the starting frontcourt of Collins and Krabbendam (8). Washington had just two rebounds. That means that Virginia Tech’s two smallest starters, Gordon and Dowdell, had as many rebounds as the three biggest players.
The Hokies trailed 3-2 early in the game, and that marked the first time they have trailed in a game this season. The Western Michigan lead didn’t last, as the Hokies came storming back to take an 11 point lead at one point in the first half. A.D. Vassallo drained a three-pointer at the 8:15 mark to put Tech up 26-15.
But Western Michigan slowly whittled away at that lead for the remainder of the half. A key play came at the 4:38 mark. Deron Washington stole the ball in the open court and broke away for an easy dunk. But Washington went for the high-flying jam and missed it. It would have given Tech a 30-19 lead. Instead Western Michigan grabbed the loose ball and scored on the other end, making the score 28-21. That was a four-point turnaround in a game the Hokies went on to lose by three.
The Broncos’ Michael Redell hit a three-pointer with 1:11 left in the first half to make the score 34-29 Virginia Tech, and that score stood up until halftime.
Tech started well in the second half, leading 40-32 after a Jamon Gordon layup with 17:13 remaining. They later led 42-35 on a Robert Krabbendam jumper in the lane at the 15:27 mark. But then the wheels fell of for the Hokies, as Western Michigan went on a 13-1 run.
The Hokies missed four shots and had two turnovers during the run. Michael Redell’s three-pointer with 11:52 remaining in the game made the score 48-43 Western Michigan. Tech’s lone point during that critical stretch was a Zabian Dowdell free throw. Western Michigan led by as many as eight points, that lead coming with 7:33 left in the game.
But the Hokies had one more run left in them. They stormed back to tie the game at 63 on a jumper by Dowdell with 4:17 left in the game. Western Michigan soon reclaimed the lead and held it for almost three minutes, but a jumper in the lane by A.D. Vassallo rattled in with 1:22 remaining to put Tech up 68-67. It was the last time the Hokies scored, as they went into meltdown mode down the stretch.
The Broncos took a 69-68 lead on two free throws by Redell, and A.D. Vassallo missed a three-pointer on Tech’s ensuing possession. After Western Michigan got the ball back, they kept the Hokies in the game by missing two free throws. But Tech gave it right back to them with 17 seconds left, as Coleman Collins and Vassallo had a miscommunication, and Collins’ pass went harmlessly out of bounds.
The Hokies had to foul, and Andre Ricks calmly hit two free throws to make the score 71-68. Vassallo missed another three-pointer with five seconds left, but Tech got yet another chance. Western Michigan called a timeout, and with three seconds and change left on the clock, they had to inbound the ball on the far side of their court. But Joe Reitz committed an offensive foul on the play before the ball was inbounded, which gave the Hokies the ball with one more shot.
Tech threw the ball in to Vassallo, who didn’t have a good look, and his three-pointer barely drew iron.
The Hokies return to action tomorrow night at 7:30 when they face Montana, who lost to West Virginia on Thursday night. The game will be televised by ESPNU.