Trailing by a double-digit deficit in both halves, Virginia Tech fought hard down the stretch to pull out an unexpected win over Maryland 69-65 in the Comcast Center. It was Tech’s first win at Maryland since joining the ACC, and it gives them a season sweep of the Terrapins. The Hokies are now 15-11 overall, and 6-6 in ACC play. Maryland dropped to 17-10 overall and 7-5 in the ACC.
Coming off three straight losses, Tech wasn’t given much of a chance to pull out this road win against a Maryland team whose only two losses since losing in Cassell Coliseum on January 12 had come against Duke. The Terps were considered the third best team in the ACC at this point in the season.
A.D. Vassallo led the Hokies in scoring with 19 points. He scored eight of Tech’s first 12 points, but was virtually unnoticed for the rest of the first half and most of the second half. He didn’t score again until there was 3:32 left in the game, when he knocked down a big three-pointer that put the Hokies up 53-51. Vassallo scored 11 points in the final 3:32.
Jeff Allen, who sat down with Seth Greenberg before the game and discussed what was needed from him for the Hokies to be successful, had perhaps the best game of his college career. He started very slowly, and didn’t play particularly well in the first half, but he dominated the late stages of the game, sparking Tech’s comeback. He finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. It was his first double-double against an ACC team.
Allen also had a lot of success in the first meeting with Maryland, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
Deron Washington added a quiet 12 points for the Hokies, but he slipped out of his funk by making contributions in other areas of the game. He had seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.
The unsung hero of the game was freshman point guard Hank Thorns. Thorns was quiet for most of the game, but exploded in the final minutes. He hit a critical three-pointer that put Tech up 58-54, and Maryland never regained the lead. Thorns finished with five points and four assists, with no turnovers.
Thorns saved his best work for the defensive end. The 5-9 guard was abused defensively by 6-6 Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez at times, but he stayed with it and came away with an amazing six steals, four of which came in the final 8:39 of the game.
After being hammered on the boards over the last three games, Tech got back to what made them successful over the first half of the ACC season. The Hokies out-rebounded Maryland 40-36, and outscored the Terps 16-4 in second chance points. Tech also forced 18 Maryland turnovers while committing just 14, and their bench outscored the Terp bench 12-0.
Freshman guard Dorenzo Hudson should be given credit for a gutsy performance as well. Despite throwing up on the court near the end of the first half, Hudson responded with seven points, three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 21 minutes of action. He had not scored a basket since he scored six points at Georgia Tech on January 19, and had just one rebound and one assist since that game.
Seth Greenberg spent the last week working individually with Hudson for an extra hour each day, and the hard work paid off.
At first this game looked like the UNC game all over again. The Hokies came out flat offensively, couldn’t buy a basket, and couldn’t work the ball inside to Jeff Allen. By the 14:19 mark, the score was already 16-4 Maryland. Tech didn’t make their third shot of the game until the 12:45 mark.
The Hokies gradually got going offensively, cutting the lead to 20-14 on two Deron Washington free throws with 10:43 left in the first half. However, this was a game of runs, and Maryland responded with an 8-0 run that put them up 28-14 with 9:17 left in the half.
At one point during the run, Seth Greenberg was whistled for an apparent calculated technical foul in an effort to get his team fired up. It seemed to work, especially on the defensive end. The Hokies held the Terps scoreless over the next seven minutes, and trailed just 31-29 heading into the halftime intermission.
The Hokies spent the early portion of the second half struggling against Maryland’s full court press. Tech’s young backcourt struggled to get the ball past halfcourt at times, turning it over on several occasions. By the 13:53 mark, the Terps were back up 43-32, and Tech seemed dead in the water. With 11:13 left, Maryland still led by 10, but that’s when the Hokies made their run.
Over the next three minutes, the Hokies outscored Maryland 8-0, and with 8:15 remaining the lead was cut to 47-45. Maryland responded by scoring the next four points to go up 51-45 with 5:32 left, and with their struggling offense, it seemed Tech was fighting an uphill battle.
However, they responded again with another 8-0 run. The first two baskets were made by Jeff Allen, and A.D. Vassallo’s three-pointer with 3:32 remaining put Tech up for the first time in the game, 53-51. The lead didn’t last, as Maryland ran Greivis Vasquez off a screen and he nailed an open three-pointer, putting Maryland back on top 54-53.
On the other end, it was Jeff Allen coming up with another huge shot, a spinning floater in the lane with 3:04 left to put Tech back up 55-54. This time, they never relinquished that lead.
After a missed three-pointer by James Gist, Hank Thorns rebounded and Tech pushed it up the court. Deron Washington found himself with the ball in the lane, with no place to go and no clean look at the basket. Just when it looked like an empty possession for the Hokies, Washington found Thorns open at the top of the key, and Thorns sank a huge three-pointer to put Tech up 58-54 with 2:13 remaining.
The Terps got the ball inside to James Gist on their next possession, but his shot was swatted by Washington, and again it was Thorns coming away with the defensive rebound. On the offensive end, Thorns made another big play, this time finding an open A.D. Vassallo for a three-pointer that put Tech up 61-54 and put the dagger in the hearts of Maryland with 1:29 left.
From there the Hokies went 8-of-12 from the free throw line down the stretch to seal the huge road win, their third ACC win away from Cassell Coliseum this season.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday afternoon, when they play the first of three consecutive home games. They will take on Georgia Tech at 2pm, and the game will be televised by Raycom. Check your local listings.