Virginia Tech got off to a terrible start, and although they rallied in the second half, it wasn’t enough to overcome a big first half deficit as NC State picked up a 73-63 win in Raleigh. The loss dropped the Hokies to 14-9 overall, and 5-4 in the ACC. NC State is now 15-7 overall, and 4-4 in conference play.
As usual, NC State had the hot hand against the Hokies, going 21-of-39 (53.8%) from the field and 7-of-15 (46.7%) from three-point range. Virginia Tech also shot much better than usual, going 27-of-57 from the field, good for 47.4%. The Hokies made six more field goals, and had seven fewer turnovers, so what was the difference in the game?
Free throw shooting. Virginia Tech did fine when they got to the line, going 7-of-10 as a team. However, NC State was 24-of-30. Freshman forward J.J. Hickson made more free throws (13) than the Hokies attempted. That’s typical NC State basketball. They have made more free throws this year (395) than their opponents have attempted (304).
Virginia Tech put four players in double figures. A.D. Vassallo led the way with 16 points. He was 7-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from three-point range. He tied for the team lead in rebounds with five.
Freshman forward Jeff Alllen added 15 points in his best offensive outing in quite some time. He only had three rebounds, but he had a very impressive six steals, five of which came in the second half. Coming into the game, Allen was fifth in the ACC in steals, averaging 2.05 per game.
Deron Washington added 12 points for the Hokies and had a good shooting night, going 5-of-8. However, he didn’t add the energy plays that he is normally good for, and after coming off two straight double-double performances, he had just one rebound against the Wolfpack.
Freshman forward J.T. Thompson continued his streak of good play, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. He has scored in double figures in four of the last five games.
For the first time in ACC play, Virginia Tech was outrebounded. NC State won the battle on the boards 28-23.
The Hokies got off to a horrendous start offensively. NC State pulled out to an early 13-2 lead, and the run was capped by a Dennis Horner three-pointer with 12:21 remaining in the first half. Tech was playing pretty well defensively, but they were having major struggles offensively.
Things got worse. The Wolfpack kept extending their lead. After Tech cut it to 16-8 at the 8:28 mark on a Cheick Diakite dunk, NC State went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes. The run was capped by a dunk by Gavin Grant on the fast break to make the score 27-8. The Wolfpack led by 19 points, and things were getting out of hand.
From that point, the Hokies found their offensive stride and began executing better. They outscored NC State 15-10 over the last 5:18 of the half, and Jeff Allen punctuated the minor run with a steal and breakaway dunk to make the score 37-23 heading into the halftime.
Virginia Tech gradually chipped away at the lead in the second half. They finally cut it to single digits at the 9:35 mark when Malcolm Delaney hit a jumper to make the score 52-43. By the 8:05 mark it was down to six points, 54-48, following a three-pointer from A.D. Vassallo.
A key play came with 2:12 left in the game. Jeff Allen had just sunk two free throws to cut the lead to 66-60, and NC State center Ben McCauley was headed to the line for a one-and-one. McCauley threw up a line drive that bounced off the back of the rim, then off the front, then off the backboard, and then back down through the hoop to convert the front end. It didn’t look good coming out of his hands, and it didn’t look good when it hit the rim, but it went in, and it was a three-possession game.
McCauley sank the second free throw to make it 68-60, and although the Hokies pulled within five at 68-63 with 1:13 remaining, they never seriously threatened the rest of the way because NC State was automatic from the free throw line.
The loss drops the Hokies back to the middle of the pack in the ACC standings, where they now sit in fifth place. Tech returns to action this Saturday against Miami in Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 2pm, and the game will not be televised. It will be available online on ACCSelect.com.