Bad First Half Dooms Hokies at ODU

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A big second half rally couldn’t overcome a poor first half defensive performance, as Virginia Tech fell to Old Dominion 72-69 in Norfolk on Sunday. It was a tale of two halves, and ultimately ODU’s first half was better than Tech’s second half. The Hokies dropped to 5-4 overall, while the Monarchs improved to 6-4 on the season.

Old Dominion was very battle-tested coming into this game. They had already played Clemson, UNC, Georgetown and Louisville, some of the top teams in the nation. Only one of those teams had scored more than 66 points against the Monarchs.

The Hokies scored 69, but they couldn’t get it done defensively in the first half. Tech allowed 45 points in the first half and gave ODU numerous open shots from the outside. Tech tightened up defensively in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 12-point halftime deficit.

Tech got some good individual performances, most notably from A.D. Vassallo and two freshmen. Vassallo led the team with 20 points. He was 6-of-9 from the field, and 4-of-5 from three-point range. He was also a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

Freshmen Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney enjoyed big games. Allen recorded his fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Malcolm Delaney got more playing time because ODU was exploiting starting point guard Hank Thorns. Delaney finished with 17 points, and was an impressive 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

Deron Washington had 11 points, six rebounds and a team-high five assists. Unfortunately, he was just 3-of-8 from the free throw line, where he had five of Tech’s six misses.

As a team, the Hokies did plenty of good things. Led by Allen, they out-rebounded ODU 45-25, including 17-5 on the offensive glass. They were also 17-of-23 from the free throw line, good for 73.9%. That’s over 10% higher than their season average. However, ODU shot 10-of-19 from the three-point line, including 7-of-8 in the first half. The Hokies also committed 16 turnovers, compared to just 10 for the Monarchs.

Tech got off to a good start, with Jeff Allen scoring on a driving layup on the first possession to make the score 2-0. However, that’s the only time the Hokies led in the game. By the 14:54 mark, ODU was up 14-6 after Abdi Lidonde nailed one of his four three-pointers.

The Hokies just couldn’t stop the Monarchs in the first half. By halftime the lead was stretched to 45-33. ODU shot 60% from the field in the first half, including a scorching 87.5% from three-point range.

Virginia Tech did make a game of things in the second half. They began the second half by going on an 8-0 run. ODU didn’t score until the 15:37 mark. The Hokies were more focused defensively, and the Monarchs didn’t have nearly as many open looks from the outside.

Still, the Hokies could never quite get over the hump. A.D. Vassallo cut the lead to 48-45 with 14:04 remaining, but ODU senior point guard Brandon Johnson nailed a jumper to push the margin back out to five points, and then Lidonde nailed a three-pointer to make it 53-45 just seconds later.

With 7:57 remaining in the game, Malcolm Delaney cut the lead to 60-58 with a three-pointer, but ODU freshman Ben Finney answered with a layup, and the Monarchs eventually pushed the lead back out to 68-60.

The Hokies still had some fight left in them. Down by five, A.D. Vassallo nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 71-69 with 26 seconds remaining. The Hokies fouled Brandon Johnson, who entered the game shooting 66% from the free throw line on the season.

Johnson hit one of two, making the score 72-69. The Hokies took over with 19 seconds left, and elected to go for two points to extend the game. With nine seconds left, Jeff Allen’s driving layup was no good, and ODU rebounded. The Monarchs got a breakaway, but the layup was missed, and J.T. Thompson rebounded. He had time to fire up a three-pointer from past half court. It hit glass at the buzzer but was no good.

Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday night when they host Liberty in Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will not be televised.

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