Ishmael Smith’s buzzer beater gave Wake Forest a dramatic 77-75 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday night in Winston-Salem. Smith’s shot was the end of a 10-0 run over the final 1:17 of the game. Despite holding an eight-point lead so late in the game, the young Hokies couldn’t quite close the deal. Wake Forest improved to 8-3 overall and 1-0 in the ACC with the win, while Tech dropped to 6-5 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
Virginia Tech wasted an amazing performance at the free throw line. The Hokies were 29-of-32 from the charity stripe, good for 90.6%. They outscored Wake 29-10 at the free throw line. They also outrebounded the Demon Deacons 39-32.
This loss can be traced to turnovers and poor decisions down the stretch. Virginia Tech committed 22 turnovers in the loss, compared to just 11 for Wake Forest. 14 of their turnovers came in the first half, which helped Wake jump out to a 45-36 halftime lead. A.D. Vassallo committed seven of Tech’s 14 first half turnovers, but both he and the Hokies settled down in the second half.
Vassallo led the team with 19 points. He also pulled down 11 rebounds. He was one of two Hokies to have a double-double, with senior forward Deron Washington scoring 13 points and corralling 14 boards. Washington was just 1-of-7 from the field. 11 of his 13 points came from the free throw line, where he was 11-of-12.
Freshman forward Jeff Allen scored 16 points and had six rebounds. Freshman guard Dorenzo Hudson, playing in just his third collegiate game, scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Freshman guard Malcolm Delaney scored eight points, and also added four steals and three assists. All of his points came from the free throw line.
Virginia Tech got off to a bad start in this game, trailing 11-2 at the 15:55 mark. At that point Seth Greenberg inserted an all-new lineup, with five players coming in off the bench. That got the Hokies going, and they slowly crawled their way back into the game.
For most of the half, the game was very close, with the Hokies actually taking a 34-33 lead on a layup by Dorenzo Hudson at the 3:18 mark of the first half. However, the half ended poorly for Virginia Tech. Wake Forest went on a 12-2 run to end the half. That run featured a very questionable intentional foul call on Malcolm Delaney, which at least partially resulted in a technical foul being called on Seth Greenberg later in the half.
The Demon Deacons took a 45-36 lead into the halftime intermission. The Hokies were still in the game, but it would be tough to come back on the road. However, they did exactly that.
Tech opened the second half with two three-pointers, one from Dorenzo Hudson and the other from A.D. Vassallo. Those shots got the Hokies back into the game, and they eventually took a 52-51 lead on a layup by Vassallo with 13:31 left in the game. The game went back and forth for a few minutes, until Tech started taking control with a little under 10 minutes remaining.
Jeff Allen hit a jumper at the 9:57 mark that tied the game at 58. That began a 12-3 run by the Hokies that saw them take a 68-61 lead on a Deron Washington layup with 4:40 left in the game.
Wake Forest put a short run on the Hokies, cutting the lead to 70-67 on a layup by Ishmael Smith with 2:36 remaining. However Tech ran off five straight points, capped by a free throw from Deron Washington with 1:22 left. That gave them a 75-67 lead, and it appeared that the Hokies were about to get a huge ACC road win.
However, Wake responded just five seconds later with a three-pointer from Smith to make the score 75-70. The Hokies had a chance to run time off the clock, but A.D. Vassallo couldn’t resist a wide open three-pointer from the left wing just seven seconds into their next possession. However Vassallo missed the shot, and Wake rebounded, pushing it up the court and getting a layup from Jeff Teague with 1:02 remaining to make the score 75-72.
Vassallo’s mistake was the first of two critical errors from Tech’s most experienced players. After a timeout, the Hokies inbounded the ball and got it up the court to Deron Washington. Washington fell in front of the Tech bench, and Wake came up with the ball. With 50 seconds remaining, Gary Clark banked in a three-pointer from the left wing, his only field goal of the game. Just like that, it was 75-75.
The Hokies ran some clock, and went inside to Jeff Allen, but his shot was off the mark with 29 seconds left. Wake rebounded, and Ishmael Smith let the clock run down. As the game clock was close to expiring, he drove the lane, then quickly pulled up for a jumper from about 12 feet away. The shot hit nothing but net, and Wake led 77-75 as the buzzer sounded.
The officials put 0.6 seconds back on the clock for the Hokies, but a long heave from Deron Washington to Jeff Allen was intercepted, and time expired.
Virginia Tech returns to action this Friday in Madison Square Garden in the ECAC Holiday Festival. They’ll take on Hofstra on Friday at 6:30. On Saturday, they’ll face either St. John’s or Marist.