Highly-touted freshman Jeff Allen lived up to the hype in his college debut, leading the freshman-laden Tech team to a 69-64 victory over Elon on Friday night in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies controlled the game the entire way, but could never put it away thanks to poor free throw shooting in the second half. Nevertheless, Tech is 1-0, and they’ll have a nice break before playing in the Great Alaska Shootout beginning on November 22.
Allen, rated the #1 prep school player in the country before arriving in Blacksburg, had a very impressive performance. He scored 19 points in his college debut. He was 7-of-11 from the field, 1-of-2 from three-point range, 4-of-6 from the free throw line, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds to give himself a double-double in his first collegiate game.
Allen didn’t stop there. He was impressive on the defensive end, with four steals and two blocked shots. He also dished out two assists and did not commit any turnovers. He looked like the best overall player on the court for the Hokies.
Hank Thorns, a 5-9 freshman, got the start at point guard and played a solid game in his debut. He scored four points and dished out four assists in 24 minutes of action. However, his most important contribution was that he did not commit a single turnover in his first collegiate game, despite facing a half court trap for much of the first half.
Two other freshmen also saw significant minutes. Forward J.T. Thompson played 15 minutes and scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. Malcolm Delaney had two points and three assists in 19 minutes of action.
Deron Washington, the only senior in Tech’s rotation, also put up solid numbers. Washington finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. It was his fifth double-double of his career. He also threw down a couple of his trademark highlight dunks, as usual.
Junior wing A.D. Vassallo finished with 17 points in 36 minutes of action. He was 4-of-8 from the field, 2-of-4 from three-point range, and 7-of-10 from the free throw line. The only negative of the night from Vassallo was four turnovers, half of the total number for the team.
Second half free throw shooting kept the Hokies from possibly running away with this one. Tech went 7-of-8 from the line in the first half, but were just 13-of-26 in the second half, despite getting some of their best free throw shooters to the line. Malcolm Delaney, regarded as an outstanding free throw shooter coming out of high school, missed the front end of a one and one. Hank Thorns missed two in a row at one point, and A.D. Vassallo missed three, all in the second half.
Elon never led, but they did give the Hokies a scare late. Trailing 65-58, Montell Watson hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining to cut the lead to four. Hank Thorns was fouled on the inbounds pass, but he missed both free throws. Elon quickly pushed the ball up the court, and Watson nailed another three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to make the score 65-64 Hokies.
Things were getting dicey, but A.D. Vassallo hit two free throws to push the lead back to three points. Elon went back to Watson on their next possession, but his three-pointer sailed out of bounds. Jeff Allen was fouled on the inbounds, and he hit both free throws with one second left to make the final score 69-64.
Before the Hokies hit their last four free throw attempts, they were just 9-of-22 from the charity stripe in the second half.
Five other ACC schools were in action on Friday night. The big shocker was UNC-Greensboro’s 83-74 win at Georgia Tech. Duke beat N.C. Central 121-56, Miami beat Florida Southern 104-61, Florida State knocked off Nicholls State 81-58, and Wake Forest easily handled Fairfield 85-60.
The Hokies get 12 days off, then return to action in the Great Alaska Shootout, where they’ll play three games. They’ll take on Eastern Washington on Thursday, November 22 at 1:45am Eastern Time. The game will not be televised. Tech will play either Michigan or Butler in the second round.