Chapel Hill, NC – Virginia Tech could not make a four point halftime lead hold up in a 78-64 loss at #9 UNC on Sunday night. Malcolm Delaney made his return and scored 26 points, including 20 in the first half, but ran out of gas over the final 20 minutes and his teammates couldn’t pick up the slack. The Hokies are now 12-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC. UNC improved to 12-4, and are now 1-0 in conference play.
The Hokies stayed in the game in the first half, generally fighting harder than UNC for loose balls and rebounds. The second half was a different story, as the Tar Heels were able to use their height advantage across the board to play good defense and dominate the paint. The Hokies shot just 24-of-67 (35.8%). Tech entered the game as the ACC’s last place team in field goal percentage despite their soft schedule, so it’s not surprising that they struggled to get good looks against the taller Tar Heels. UNC blocked 10 shots during the game, and the Hokies blocked just three.
Malcolm Delaney scored 26 points, but he was a step slow defensively. Thanks to that, as well as UNC’s height advantage on the inside, Tech spent much of the game in a zone defense. That worked well for much of the contest, as the Tar Heels missed their first 11 three-pointers. However, UNC drilled their last five attempts from the outside, and when Delaney started wearing down, the Hokies didn’t have much of a chance.
UNC was pedestrian offensively in the first half, scoring 34 points and shooting 44.8% from the field. In the second half they shot 65.2%, as the Hokies struggled to get stops time and time again.
The Hokies were still in the game late, trailing by five with just over six minutes remaining. However, with the exception of Delaney, Tech couldn’t get anything going offensively. Delaney was 6-of-13 from the field, 2-of-5 from three-point range and 12-of-14 from the free throw line.
The rest of the team didn’t come close to matching those numbers. Dorenzo Hudson scored 14 points, but was just 7-of-22 shooting. Terrell Bell had five points and was just 2-of-11 from the field. Delaney was also the only Virginia Tech player to hit a free throw against UNC. The rest of the team combined to go 0-of-4.
The Hokies fought hard on the glass despite their height disadvantage, and were only outrebounded 38 to 35. UNC had 18 turnovers, while Tech had 12, and fouls were even at 19 each.
The Hokies played their best half of basketball of the season in the first 20 minutes. They led the Tar Heels by as many as nine points in the first half, and Delaney scored 20 of his 26 points. The game was within five points for most of the half, but Tech went on a run 10 minutes into the game to extend their lead.
Leading 19-16 with 9:59 left, Dorenzo Hudson hit a jumper in the paint to make the score 21-16. J.T. Thompson followed with a shot on Tech’s next possession to put the Hokies up by seven, and Hudson finished the quick run with a fastbreak jumper to make the score 25-16 with 9:06 left in the half.
After Hudson’s jumper, no Hokie besides Malcolm Delaney managed to score a bucket for the remainder of the half. Delaney ran off 13 consecutive points over the final nine minutes, as Tech took a 38-34 lead into intermission. The rest of the team combined to go 0-of-8 from the field over those last nine minutes. With an injured Delaney scoring 20 of Tech’s first 38 points and every one else missing their shots, it was easy to get the feeling that unless somebody else stepped up, the Hokies were going to lose. That’s exactly what happened.
Delaney has not practiced much in the last week thanks to his ankle injury, and his endurance isn’t at the same level as it was two weeks ago. He scored just six second half points, as the Hokies were just 10-of-30 (33.3%) from the field over the final 20 minutes. Two of those shots were meaningless shots in the final minute after the game had already been decided.
UNC took the lead early in the second half, and gradually extended it. The Tar Heels led 53-48 on a jumper by Marcus Ginyard with 11:58 remaining. However, they went into a short shooting slump and didn’t score for the next three minutes of the game, which provided the Hokies with an ample opportunity to make a run. However, Tech went scoreless from the 13:24 mark to the 8:32 mark and couldn’t take advantage.
Tech had one more chance to make a run. Trailing 60-55 with under seven minutes left, Delaney drove the lane and dished to an open Cadarian Raines under the basket. Raines went up for the shot, but it was blocked by Ed Davis. It was very close to a goaltend, but the whistle didn’t blow, and UNC’s Will Graves followed up that miss with a three-pointer on the other end to make the score 63-55. It was a five-point swing from which the Hokies never recovered.
The Tar Heels went on to lead by as many as 18 points in the final minutes, and held on to win 78-64.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday night against the Miami Hurricanes. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will not be televised.