Virginia Tech’s basketball season came to an end on Wednesday night with an 81-72 loss to #2 seed Ole Miss in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies finish the season 21-14, and the game marks the end of the career of senior wing Deron Washington, as well as reserve guard Marcus Travis. Ole Miss will move on to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden.
Virginia Tech was the third #1 seed to lose in the NIT quarterfinals. UMass knocked off Syracuse, and Florida defeated Arizona State on Tuesday night.
Washington scored 23 points in his final collegiate game. He was 6-of-11 from the field, 2-of-3 from three-point range, and 9-of-10 from the free throw line. He also had four rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He didn’t play quite as much as usual because of foul trouble.
A.D. Vassallo, who had been on fire lately, didn’t have his best night shooting the ball. He was just 6-of-21 from the field and 4-of-13 from three-point range. The normally reliable Vassallo was also 0-of-2 from the free throw line, a pretty rare stat for him. He did lead the team with seven assists, and he played all 40 minutes.
Malcolm Delaney added 13 points and five assists for Tech. He continued his streak of good shooting, going 3-of-7 from three-point range. Over the last five games of the season, Delaney was 15-of-23 from three-point range
The Hokies committed just five turnovers as a team, but they lost the game because they were crushed on the boards by a 46-23 margin. Ole Miss had more offensive rebounds (16) than the Hokies had defensive rebounds (14). Jeff Allen had just seven points and four rebounds. J.T. Thompson led Tech with five rebounds, and he also had nine points.
Two Ole Miss inside players, Kenny Williams and Dwayne Curtis, finished with double-doubles. Williams had 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Curtis had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Ole Miss freshman guard Chris Warren finished with a team-high 22 points.
Virginia Tech got off to a great start. They jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead just three minutes into the game. A three-pointer by A.D. Vassallo capped the opening run, and it looked like the Hokies were going to play like they did in their first two NIT games against Morgan State and UAB.
However, Ole Miss responded by hitting two quick three-pointers to cut the lead to 12-9, and from there the Hokies had a battle on their hands. Ole Miss took their first lead 16-15 on a Trevor Gaskins layup with 12:08 remaining in the first half.
The game was nip and tuck for the rest of the half. The Rebels stretched their lead out to four points on two occasions, but the Hokies rallied each time and managed to retake the lead late in the half. A three-pointer by Malcolm Delaney gave Tech a 31-27 lead with 1:58 left in the half. However, the Hokies failed to score again down the stretch, and Ole Miss took a 33-31 lead into the halftime intermission.
They never relinquished that lead. The game was even in the early portions of the second half, and the Hokies managed to come back and tie the game at 46 with 12 minutes left following a J.T. Thompson layup. However, Ole Miss responded by going on a 14-3 run. A Kenny Williams layup with 8:22 left in the game gave the Rebels a 60-49 lead. They went on to lead by as many as 13 points.
The Hokies were able to get no closer than seven points the rest of the way. Thanks to the Rebels’ terrific rebounding, and Tech’s inability to hit jumpers against the zone defense, the Hokies lost their first NIT game ever in Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech loses second leading scorer and second leading rebounder Deron Washington, but they will return everyone else from a team that went 21-14 overall and finished fourth in the ACC at 9-7.