Hokies Lose Another Heartbreaker 63-62

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The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team found yet another way to lose on Sunday evening, dropping a 63-62 decision to George Washington in the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Hokies drop to 4-3 overall, and are now 1-3 in games decided by five points or less. George Washington improves to 5-1 with the victory.

There were many frustrating things about Tech’s latest heartbreaking loss. Perhaps the most frustrating stat was the Hokies’ free throw shooting. Generally pointed to as a reason for a close loss, today Tech hit 12-of-15 free throws, good for 80%, and still could not walk away from the Verizon Center with a victory.

The Hokies were paced by A.D. Vassallo, who came off the bench to score all 16 of his points in the second half. Vassallo was 6-of-11 from the field. Freshman forward Lewis Witcher, who started his second consecutive game, continued his solid play. Witcher scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds in 25 minutes before fouling out.

Virginia Tech was hurt by the performances of their top two scorers, Zabian Dowdell and Deron Washington, who combined to shoot 1-of-12 from the field. Dowdell entered the game averaging 16.8 points per game, but managed just six points on Sunday. He was 1-of-9 from the field, including 0-of-5 from three-point range. Washington was averaging 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds, but finished with just three points and one rebound. He was 0-3 from the field.

Jamon Gordon was the only other Tech player in double figures. The senior guard scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. 11 of his points came in the first half. Gordon also finished with three assists and four steals.

Tech got a good performance from sophomore forward Cheick Diakite in his limited minutes. Diakite scored six points and grabbed four rebounds, but played just eight minutes. He played seven minutes in the first half, when he scored all six of his points and grabbed all four rebounds, but got in foul trouble and spent the rest of the half on the bench. He played just one minute in the second half for reasons unknown.

For awhile, it appeared that the Hokies were on their way to a relatively easy win over a good team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Virginia Tech shot 56% from the field in the first half and took a 38-29 lead into the halftime intermission. Despite not getting great performances from Washington and Dowdell in the first half, the Hokies still put up 38 points and were in control of the game.

Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly in the second 20 minutes. Dowdell and Washington combined for nine points in the first half, but did not score at all in the second half. Their continued drought helped the Colonials open the second half on a 15-2 run to take a 45-40 lead with 14:22 left in the game. In fact, GW scored the first 13 points of the second half.

Sophomore forward A.D. Vassallo managed to keep the Hokies in the game in the second half. He scored 16 of Tech’s 24 second half points. At the 12:06 mark, Vassallo nailed a three-pointer that put the Hokies back on top 46-45, and less than two minutes later he hit another jumper that gave Tech a 49-47 lead.

But Vassallo wasn’t finished. He broke another tie at the 8:39 mark with a layup to put the Hokies up 53-51. At the 6:15 mark he hit another three-pointer from the corner to give Tech a 58-55 lead. And finally, with 4:15 left in the game, Vassallo hit two free throws to make the score 60-59 Virginia Tech.

So if you’re keeping track, Vassallo broke three ties in the second half with shots that gave Tech the lead. On two other occasions, baskets or free throws by Vassallo took the lead away from GW and gave it to the Hokies. Unfortunately, no one else stepped up for Tech, as the rest of the team combined for just eight second half points.

George Washington shot a blistering 56.8% for the game, but Tech’s defense tightened up down the stretch. A layup by Maureece Rice with 5:41 remaining was the last field goal the Colonials scored during the game. All GW could manage down the stretch was six free throws from Carl Elliott, but thanks to Virginia Tech’s offensive ineptitude, that was all they needed.

The key play of the game came on Tech’s next-to-last offensive possession. With 28 seconds left in the game and 13 seconds left on the shot clock, the Hokies were up 62-61. Seth Greenberg called his final timeout to set up a play that would extend Tech’s lead, and it worked to perfection…well, almost. Tech penetrated into the lane and Coleman Collins found himself wide up under the basket. He corralled the pass, went up for a dunk with 18 seconds left, and missed.

Collins’ arm was hit slightly as he was going up by a GW player, and as a result he momentarily lost control of the ball as he was going up, and it was enough to make him miss the dunk. GW grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 12 seconds left.

GW point guard Carl Elliott drove the lane and was fouled with 7.1 seconds left with Tech still up 62-61. Elliott went to the line for a one-and-one and calmly nailed both free throws to put the Colonials up 63-62.

The Hokies inbounded and easily broke the press, and Coleman Collins found himself driving down a wide open lane for an easy dunk. But at the last second, a GW player reached in and cleanly stripped the ball away out of bounds. The officials gave the ball to the Hokies with 1.7 seconds left. Dowdell inbounded the ball to A.D. Vassallo, but he was too far underneath the basket, and his potential game-winning shot was no good.

Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday when they host Old Dominion. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will not be televised.

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