Hokies Battle, but Lose in Final Seconds to UNC

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Virginia Tech led almost the entire game, but #1 North Carolina was able to close the game out and win 79-76 in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday afternoon. The Hokies dropped to 18-14 on the year with the loss, and their likely postseason destination is the NIT.

With Ty Lawson not playing for UNC, the Hokies were able to control the pace of the action. A.D. Vassallo led the Hokies with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Delaney had 17 points and 10 assists. It was the second straight game in which Delaney has set a career high for assists. He had eight in Thursday’s win over Miami.

J.T. Thompson and Dorenzo Hudson continued to play well. Thompson had nine points and four rebounds, while Hudson had seven points and played excellent defense for the second day in a row, this time against UNC’s Wayne Ellington.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. The Hokies had the ball down 77-76, and had a chance to take the last shot. J.T. Thompson intercepted a pass in the lane that was intended for a wide open Dorenzo Hudson. He was guarded very physically by Tyler Hansbrough, who got one hand on the basketball long enough for an official to call a jump ball with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Seth Greenberg felt that Thompson was fouled, and he tossed his jacked to the floor in frustration.

The Hokies were forced to foul, and Tyler Hansbrough made both free throws to put the Tar Heels up 79-76 with 4.6 seconds remaining. Tech had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer, but A.D. Vassallo’s shot was off, and the Hokies were eliminated from the 2009 ACC Tournament.

The shooting stats in this game were similar. Tech was 30-of-67 (44.8%) from the field, while UNC was 29-of-65 (44.6%). The Hokies were 8-of-19 (42.1%) three-point range, and UNC was 6-of-19 (31.6%).

The difference in the game was free throw shooting. While Tech was 8-of-11 for a very solid 72.7% mark, UNC was 15-of-21 for 71.4%. The Hokies went to the line for just two shots in the second half. With under a minute remaining in the game, UNC had been called for just three fouls in the entire second half, so Tech had no hope of going to the line unless they were fouled while shooting.

The Hokies got off to a great start, taking an 11-4 lead at the 15:30 mark in the first half on a Jeff Allen shot in the paint. They went on to extend their lead, taking a 26-17 advantage with 6:45 remaining in the half.

However, they couldn’t hold that advantage because foul trouble kicked in. A.D. Vassallo picked up his second foul at the 8:19 mark and spent the rest of the half on the bench, while Jeff Allen was called for his second with 5:34 left in the half. When Allen headed to the bench, Tech was up 26-22. UNC then went on a run over the last five minutes and took a 43-42 lead heading into the halftime intermission.

Despite the late first half run by UNC, the Hokies came back strong in the second half to reclaim the lead. A three-pointer by Malcolm Delaney made the score 66-60 with 10:55 left in the game. That was the biggest lead of the second half for either team.

Carolina made a run, as they always do, but a basket by A.D. Vassallo put the Hokies back up 76-75 with 52 seconds remaining. Hansbrough answered with a layup to put UNC back up 77-76 with 33 seconds left, setting the stage for the questionable call that is being heavily covered by the media all across the ACC’s geographic footprint.

Virginia Tech’s likely postseason destination is the NIT, where they should be a very high seed. They will find out for sure on Sunday night.

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