Virginia Tech grabbed the lead over Georgia Tech with 7:46 remaining in the first half and never relinquished it, downing the Yellow Jackets 92-84 in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The win was VT’s second in a row, and pushed the Hokies’ overall record to 16-11 overall and 7-6 in the ACC. Georgia Tech dropped to 11-14 and 4-7.
This was a very important victory for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have now clinched a winning record at the end of the ACC Tournament. Even if they closed the regular season with three straight losses, and then lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament, they would be 16-15. That makes them nearly a lock for either the NIT, or the new College Basketball Invitational.
Junior forward A.D. Vassallo led the Hokies with 27 points. Known for his three-point shooting, Vassallo hit just one outside jumper on Saturday. He was 8-of-14 from the field, scoring with an array of jumpers, layups and dunks. He was also 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Vassallo added five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 38 minutes of action.
Freshman forward J.T. Thompson was only supposed to play in case of an emergency, because of a sprained ankle. With 60 total fouls called in the game, he was forced into action, and he had an excellent game. Thompson finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, including five offensive rebounds.
Junior forward Deron Washington narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. Malcolm Delaney added 16 points, 13 of which came from the free throw line.
Another player who deserves credit is sophomore forward Lewis Witcher. Starting his second straight game because of Thompson’s injury, Witcher responded with eight points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. He had three offensive rebounds and gave the Hokies a great spark.
With such good play from their frontcourt, the Hokies were able to out-rebound Georgia Tech 42-27. They grabbed 18 offensive rebounds during the game, and outscored the Yellow Jackets 21-6 in second chance points.
VT’s rebounding dominance and the total number of free throws attempted were the stories of the game. The officials called the game tightly, but fairly, and Georgia Tech spent a lot of time fouling late in the game in a comeback attempt. As a result, the Hokies were 36-of-49 from the charity stripe, good for 73.5%. Georgia Tech was 28-of-34, an 82.4% mark.
For the second straight game, Virginia Tech overcame a double-digit deficit. At the 14:44 mark, Georgia Tech led 12-2, and the Hokies looked bad on offense. They certainly didn’t look like a team that would go on to score 92 points.
However, they eventually got things going and chipped away at the Yellow Jacket lead. A three-pointer from Malcolm Delaney with 7:46 remaining in the first half gave the Hokies their first lead at 24-22, and they never looked back. They led by as many as eight points in the first half and took a 42-38 lead into the halftime intermission.
Virginia Tech led the entire second half, although Georgia Tech threatened to take the lead on a few occasions. As they’ve done numerous times this season, the Hokies took control of the game in the final minutes, beginning at the 6:18 mark.
At that point the Hokies led 70-67, and two A.D. Vassallo free throws made it 72-67. They seemed like just a couple of normal free throws at the time, but Virginia Tech was starting to put the Yellow Jackets in their rearview mirror. Vassallo’s free throws were the beginning of a 10-1 run that ended with two Jeff Allen free throws with 4:03 remaining in the game. Allen’s free throws put the Hokies up 80-68.
Virginia Tech didn’t hit a field goal the rest of the game, instead using Georgia Tech fouls to rack up 12 free throws. The Hokies coasted to the relatively easy win down the stretch, although an Anthony Morrow uncontested three-pointer near the end cut the margin to single digits. VT inbounded, ran out the clock, and won 92-84.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Tuesday night when they host the Boston College Eagles. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.