Virginia Tech’s young basketball team played their best game of the season on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough, as a jumper from Tyler Hansbrough with 0.8 seconds remaining gave the Tar Heels a hard fought 68-66 victory over the Hokies. UNC improved to 31-2 with the win, while Tech dropped to 19-13. The Hokies will have to wait until Sunday evening’s NCAA Selection Show to find out their postseason fate.
The Hokies showed a lot of heart on Saturday and played a tremendous defensive game. The 68 points scored by UNC was their second-lowest total of the season. The Tar Heels shot just 40% from the field, and had 17 turnovers compared to just seven assists.
A.D. Vassallo scored 17 points for the Hokies, but he was just 6-of-19 from the field, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
Malcolm Delaney, who has played as well as any guard in the ACC Tournament, scored 15 points for the second straight day. He was 5-of-6 from the field, and 2-of-3 from three-point range. He finished the tournament 6-of-8 from the outside. He also grabbed four rebounds, had three steals, and dished out six assists while committing just two turnovers.
Deron Washington added 14 points, two blocks and two steals for the Hokies. Jeff Allen had nine points and 11 rebounds.
North Carolina won the first meeting between these teams 92-53. The second meeting however, turned out to be a classic ACC Tournament battle. There were five lead changes and 14 ties. Virginia Tech led the majority of the game, but the Tar Heels made a couple of plays at the end to pull out the narrow victory.
UNC only led this game three times in the first half. The first lead came on a Wayne Ellington three-pointer to make the score 5-2 early in the game. However, Delaney answered that with a three-pointer of his own to tie the game at 5. UNC grabbled a 7-5 lead on a Hansbrough jumper, but then Deron Washington tied the game at seven with a breakway layup. From that point, the Hokies controlled most of the half.
North Carolina reclaimed a brief 21-20 lead on a Ty Lawson three-pointer with 9:21 left in the half, but A.D. Vassallo answered with a jumper. Beginning with Vassallo’s shot, the Hokies went on a 9-0 run, and held a 29-21 lead with 7:32 left in the half. A Deron Washington three-pointer capped the run.
The Tar Heels wouldn’t be denied however, and they whittled the lead away little by little in the closing moments of the half. Two Ty Lawson free throws with 10 seconds left in the half tied the game at 38, and an A.D. Vassallo three-pointer before the half wouldn’t fall. The game was even heading into the halftime intermission.
Virginia Tech promptly took control of the game in the early stages of the second half. Tech opened the half by going on a 12-4 run to take a 50-42 lead with 13:14 left in the game. The Tar Heels scored just four points over the first seven minutes of the half. Two J.T. Thompson free throws capped the run.
Virginia Tech still led by seven, 59-52, with 6:17 left in the game. At that point, UNC made a run, as the Hokies went over three minutes without scoring. Wayne Ellington’s three-pointer tied the game at 59, and it was clear that this game was going down to the wire.
The Hokies hit their high water mark with 2:20 remaining. With the game tied at 61, Delaney drained a three-pointer from the wing to give the Hokies a 64-61 lead. However, it was answered by a Wayne Ellington three-pointer on the other end, tying the game at 64 with 2:05 left on the clock.
The key sequence came with just under a minute left, with the game tied at 66. North Carolina had the ball, but Danny Green turned the ball over to Hank Thorns, and the Hokies had a chance to take the lead. However, a J.T. Thompson jumper was no good, and UNC called a timeout with 21 seconds remaining.
On the inbounds, UNC point guard Ty Lawson ran down the clock, and then drove down the right side of the lane. He threw up an off balance shot that clanked off the backboard and rim with four seconds remaining. The ball bounced off A.D. Vassallo and a UNC player as they were fighting for the rebound, and Hansbrough tracked it down promptly on the baseline. Hansbrough picked the ball up, put up the shot over Tech’s 5-9 point guard Hank Thorns, and drained it with 0.8 seconds remaining in the game.
Virginia Tech had a chance to throw a long inbounds pass to go for the game-winner, but it was deflected by Deon Thompson, and time ran out.
Virginia Tech won five of their last seven games, with a win over a Top 30 Miami team that is headed to the NCAA tournament. They have allowed an average of just 58.6 points per game over the last five games. Their only two losses in that span came to #24 Clemson on the road by one point, and to #1 North Carolina in Charlotte by two points.
At this point, some analysts say the Hokies are in the NCAA tournament, and some say they are out. We’ll find out tomorrow evening at 6pm on the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. It will be televised by CBS.