For the second game in a row, Virginia Tech trailed at halftime only to come back and tie the game in the second half. For the second game in a row, they came up short in the end. This time it came against #2 UNC 86-78, and the loss makes this Sunday’s game at Florida State a must-win if the Hokies want to make the NCAA tournament. Tech fell to 17-12 overall and 7-8 in the ACC with the loss.
Virginia Tech wasted a perfect 17-of-17 performance from the free throw line, as well as a terrific 25-point performance from A.D. Vassallo in his final game in Cassell Coliseum. Jeff Allen had a double-double, with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
However, Malcolm Delaney had an off day for the second straight game. Struggling with an injured hip, Delaney was just 4-of-16 from the field and 1-of-7 from three-point range. Over the last two games, he is just 1-of-13 from the outside. He did finish with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, but 10 of his points came from the free throw line.
This game was even in most statistical categories. Tech shot 40.6% from the field, while UNC was at 40.9%. UNC was 6-of-19 (31.6%) from three-point range, while VT was 5-of-19 (26.3%). The Hokies even outrebounded UNC 42-41, and the Tar Heels were the top rebounding team in the ACC heading into the game.
The game’s biggest differential statistically was free throw shooting. Though Tech was 17-of-17, 10 of their free throws came in the final three minutes when the game turned into a foul fest. The Tar Heels were able to get to the line consistently for the majority of the game, and they knocked down 26-of-34 (76.5%) shots from the charity stripe. UNC outscored Tech by nine points from the free throw line, and they won the game by eight points.
Virginia Tech has struggled to get off to good starts recently, and it was no different in this game. UNC jumped out to a 17-8 advantage when Tyler Hansbrough threw down a dunk with 13:21 remaining in the first half. The Hokies came back to make a game of it, and after two breakaway dunks by Jeff Allen, they trailed just 39-36 before UNC’s final possession of the first half.
However, Hansbrough rolled off a screen near the top of the key on that final possession and nailed a left wing three-pointer that made the score 42-36 heading into halftime.
The game was basically even for the opening minutes of the second half, but the Hokies went on a quick 6-0 run that tied the game at 50 with 13:59 remaining. A.D. Vassallo’s layup tied the game, and the crowd was back in it.
As all championship teams do, UNC came right back. The Tar Heels went on short 6-3 run to take a 56-53 lead on a dunk by Ed Davis with 9:47 left in the game. However, Vassallo wasn’t finished. On Tech’s next possession, he nailed a three-pointer that tied the game at 56. Unfortunately for the Hokies, that was as close as they got.
Tech trailed just 63-62 with 5:17 left, but the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run and held an insurmountable 73-62 lead with 2:59 remaining in the game. The Hokies cut it to five points down the stretch, but UNC was able to knock down enough free throws over the closing minutes to walk away with the win.
Virginia Tech’s final game of the regular season is at Florida State, on Sunday at 2pm. The game will be televised by Raycom. If the Hokies don’t win it, the NIT is their likely destination for the postseason.