The Hokies kept their streak of good play alive on Monday night by crushing visiting UAB 75-49 in Cassell Coliseum. Tech never trailed in the game, and they improved to 21-13 on the season. They’ll face Ole’ Miss on Wednesday night at 7pm in Blacksburg in the NIT quarterfinals. That game will be televised by ESPN2.
Like the Hokies’ opening round game over Morgan State, this game was never particularly close. Tech jumped out to an early 21-9 lead and never looked back. They hit eight of their first nine shots from the field They played tremendous defense, limiting a very good shooting UAB team to just 36.2% from the field and 16.7% from the outside.
Robert Vaden, who came into Blacksburg averaging over 20 points per game, had just nine points against Tech. It was just his second game of the season scoring in single digits. He was just 3-of-17 from the field and 1-of-12 from three-point range. Before Monday night, he ranked second nationally with 141 made three-pointers. He is one of the best shooters in the nation, and senior wing Deron Washington and freshman wing Terrell Bell played suffocating defense against him all night long.
Reggie Huffman led UAB with 10 points. He was the only Blazer to score in double figures.
Meanwhile, the Hokies got scoring contributions from everywhere. A.D. Vassallo led the team with 18 points. He was 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range, despite playing just 25 minutes because of foul trouble. Vassallo also dished out four assists.
Freshman guard Malcolm Delaney continued his streak of hot shooting. He was 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from three-point range, finishing with 17 points. Over the last four games, Delaney has averaged 15 points and 3.5 assists. Over that four game stretch, he has shot 12-of-16 from three-point range, an amazing 75% mark. He is looking every bit like the national Top 50 prospect that some services rated him coming out of high school.
Deron Washington added 16 points, six rebounds and three assists for Tech. Washington was even 2-of-4 from three-point range. Over his last five games, Washington is 6-of-15 from three-point range, good for 40%. That includes an 0-of-2 showing against Clemson.
Tech got solid production from some of their inside players as well. Lewis Witcher finished with five points and six rebounds. Jeff Allen had six points, six rebounds, three steals and three blocks. J.T. Thompson came off the bench to score eight points and grab seven rebounds, to go along with two assists and no turnovers. For the second straight game, Thompson flashed a midrange jumper that could play a big role in his future.
The Hokies out-rebounded UAB 40-38, and had 16 assists compared to just 10 turnovers. UAB had 16 turnovers, which Virginia Tech turned into 23 points.
After Virginia Tech’s blazing start, UAB was able to cut into the lead and make it a game midway through the second half. A layup by Channing Toney with 8:56 left in the first half made in 22-17, and the Blazers appeared to have survived Tech’s initial surge, which was created by hot shooting, good defense, and a fired up Cassell Coliseum.
However, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The Hokies closed out the half by going on a 14-4 run, taking a 36-21 lead into the halftime intermission.
UAB had no run left in them for the second half. Virginia Tech gradually pulled away. Blazer coach Mike Davis was very animated on the bench, even drawing a technical foul at one point, but no matter what he did he couldn’t get his team to play better.
A three-pointer by A.D. Vassallo with 3:34 remaining gave the Hokies their largest lead at 28. They led 72-44 at that point, and from there Seth Greenberg began getting reserves such as Terrance Vinson and Marcus Travis on the court. Vinson and Travis combined for three points from the free throw line, and Tech coasted to the easy 75-49 victory.
Virginia Tech is the only team this season to hold UAB below 50 points. Over the last seven games, opponents are averaging just 57.7 points per game against Tech. Only Clemson has cracked 70 points, and the Tigers scored right at 70. Three teams, Boston College, Miami and UAB, have failed to score 50 points in that span, and the Hokies were one of just two teams to hold UNC to below 70 points this season.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday, March 26 in Cassell Coliseum where they will take on the #2 seed Ole’ Miss Rebels out of the SEC. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised by ESPN2. The winner will advance to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden.