Virginia turned a double digit second half deficit into a very close game, but in the end Virginia Tech pulled out a 78-75 victory in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The win moves the Hokies to 10-5 overall and 1-1 in ACC play. They’ll host Richmond in their final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday night.
The Hokies used a different starting lineup than usual in this game. Dorenzo Hudson came off the bench and only played two minutes. J.T. Thompson started in place of Hudson, along with the usual lineup of Malcolm Delaney, A.D. Vassallo, Jeff Allen and Victor Davila.
It was Delaney and Vassallo who led the Hokies to victory against their in-state rival. Vassallo led all scorers with 29 points. He was 9-of-14 from the field, 1-of-2 from three-point range and 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Vassallo also added a team-high seven rebounds and three assists, while not committing a turnover in 40 minutes of action.
Malcolm Delaney scored 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three-point range. The sophomore guard from Baltimore also had two assists and two steals in 37 minutes of playing time.
Vassallo and Delaney were the only Hokies in double figures. Jeff Allen was harassed by Virginia’s impressive inside duo of Mike Scott and Assane Sene. Sene blocked four shots, and Allen scored just three points, all from the free throw line. He was 0-of-7 from the field.
The Hokies did get good minutes from several role players. Terrell Bell came off the bench to score five points in 23 minutes, while also grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists. Lewis Witcher finished with six points and three rebounds, while Cheick Diakite had five points and five boards.
Until UVA’s big run to close the contest, this was perhaps the best game the Hokies have played all season. They were more energetic, forcing 17 turnovers while committing just 11 of their own. They made some hustle plays, drew a charge, and came up with loose balls. Tech outscored the Hoos 25-13 in points off turnovers, and that was the difference in the game.
The Hokies jumped out to an early 5-0 lead following an A.D. Vassallo three-pointer at the 19:14 mark of the first half. However, the Hoos quickly went on 10-0 run and claimed a 10-5 lead with 15:53 remaining. At that point things settled down, and neither team could manage more than a five point lead until the final basket of the half.
Virginia Tech went on a big run to close the half. After UVA star freshman Sylven Landesberg hit a layup with 4:10 remaining to put his team up 31-29, the Hokies went on an 11-2 run to close the half. The run featured four free throws and a big layup from A.D. Vassallo, and also a key three-pointer from Malcolm Delaney. Vassallo’s layup with 26 seconds remaining made the score 40-33 Hokies, and they took that lead into the halftime intermission.
The game remained tight for the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the Hokies put a big run on the Hoos to extend their lead to 15 points. Tech led 51-47 with 9:23 remaining, but went on a 13-2 run to jump out to their biggest lead of the game. Victor Davila began the run with a layup, and A.D. Vassallo ended it with a layup and free throw with 5:23 remaining that made the score 64-49.
That’s when UVA guard Mustapha Farrakhan got hot. Farrakhan nailed four three-pointers in less than five minutes, and also converted all three free throws when he was fouled while taking an outside jumper. His three-pointer with 51 seconds remaining cut the Hokie lead to 72-70.
A.D. Vassallo answered Farrakhan’s final three-pointer with a clutch fade away jumper from the baseline with 19 seconds remaining to make the score 74-70. However, the Hoos still refused to go away. Sylven Landesberg hit a driving layup with 10 seconds left to cut the lead back to two, and then Vassallo converted two free throws to make it 76-72 with nine seconds remaining.
The lead seemed safe, but then Jamil Tucker drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to 76-75 with just three seconds left. Vassallo was fouled on the inbounds pass and went to the free throw line with 1.9 seconds remaining. He hit both free throws yet again, extending the lead to 78-75, and Sammy Zeglinski’s buzzer beater from half court was way off, giving the Hokies the victory.
The win is Virginia Tech’s third victory in a row against UVA, and fourth in the last five games. The teams split during the 2006-07 season, and the Hokies took both games last year.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday night when they host Richmond in Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will not be televised.