The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team returned to the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night, and knocked off Iowa 69-65 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It was the Hokies’ first ever win in the event, and the victory takes their record to 4-2. Iowa drops to 2-4.
Virginia Tech had just two players in double figures, but they got a balanced effort from most of the squad. Zabian Dowdell led the team with 18 points. He continued his good shooting from the outside, hitting 2-of-3 three-point attempts. He also grabbed four rebounds, dished out four assists and had two steals.
Coleman Collins was the other Tech player in double figures. Collins came off the bench to score 10 points in 18 minutes. However he pulled down just one rebound. Deron Washington led the Hokies with seven rebounds to go along with nine points.
Freshman power forward Lewis Witcher got the first start of his college career, and he responded with a good game. He finished with seven points, four rebounds, an outstanding five blocks, and one steal. Witcher played 30 minutes in the game, third most on the team. Fellow freshman Nigel Munson played just eight minutes, but he had two assists and zero turnovers. Witcher and Munson combined for 38 minutes of action and did not commit a turnover.
In fact, the entire Tech squad did a good job protecting the basketball after having trouble in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. The Hokies turned the ball over just eight times, while forcing 19 Iowa turnovers. Tech scored 25 points off turnovers, while the Hawkeyes netted just six.
The Hokies trailed in the early going, but managed to control the majority of the game. At the 10:29 mark of the first half, Coleman Collins hit a jumper in the lane that cut Iowa’s lead to 13-12, and that was the last lead the Hawkeyes enjoyed. Lewis Witcher scored a basket on an inbounds play at the 9:38 mark to put Tech up 14-13, and the closest Iowa came from that point on was a tie.
Beginning at the 5:55 mark of the first half with the game tied at 18, the Hokies went on a 10-0 run. Lewis Witcher started the run with a jumper in the paint to put Tech up by two. Zabian Dowdell added to the run with a three-pointer. At the 2:21 mark he drove the lane and hit a layup, and drew the foul. He nailed the free throw attempt to cap the run, and the Hokies led 28-18.
The Hawkeyes couldn’t get much going to counter Virginia Tech’s run, and the Hokies took a 30-21 lead into halftime.
The Hokies got off to a fast start in the second half. After a missed basket by Iowa, the Hokies got points on the fast break when Zabian Dowdell found Cheick Diakite for an easy dunk to put Tech up 32-21.
Virginia Tech gradually increased their lead in the second half. They led by 13 points when Jamon Gordon hit a layup with 14:47 remaining to make the score 42-29. At the 13:31 mark, A.D. Vassallo drained two free throws to put Tech up 46-31, and the rout appeared to be on.
The Hokies led by as many as 16 points on two occasions, the last coming on a Diakite layup to put Tech up 58-42 with 6:29 remaining. With 4:19 remaining, the Hokies took a 59-44 lead following a Zabian Dowdell free throw. The game looked to be well in hand, but the Hawkeyes had one last run in them.
Iowa gradually shrunk Tech’s lead to as few as four points, which turned out to be the final margin. Hot Iowa shooting combined with poor free throw shooting by the Hokies contributed to the comeback. In the final 1:52 of action, the Hokies were just 9-of-16 from the free throw line, and that included six consecutive made free throws from the duo of Zabian Dowdell and A.D. Vassallo.
During this span, the Hawkeyes nailed two three-pointers and several other shots. The Hokies missed their last four free throws of the game, including two by Vassallo with 16 seconds left and Tech up 69-65. However Iowa did not get a shot off until the final buzzer, and the three-pointer missed, and the Hokies walked out of Cassell Coliseum 69-65 winners.
The Hokies return to action on Sunday, December 3 when they face George Washington in the BB&T Classic in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 pm.