Atlanta, GA – Virginia Tech overcame adversity again on Saturday, and this time it all but locks up a bid to the NCAA tournament. Playing without Dorenzo Hudson, who finally had to miss a game thanks to his injured foot, the Hokies defeated Georgia Tech 88-82 on the road to finish 23-7 overall and 10-6 in the ACC. No matter what happens in the ACC tournament, Tech is a virtual lock to receive an invitation to the Big Dance. Georgia Tech dropped to 19-11 overall and 7-9 in the ACC. It was just their second home loss of the season.
The Hokies won their 23rd game of the regular season against Georgia Tech. That’s a Virginia Tech record for wins in the regular season.
Saturday’s game was filled with heroes wearing maroon. Let’s start with Atlanta native Manny Atkins, the freshman wing who made the start in place of Hudson in front of his hometown crowd. Atkins finished with five points, seven rebounds, one block and a career-high five assists in 38 minutes of action. He had not been used much by Seth Greenberg in the later stages of the season, but when needed on Saturday, he stepped up with a big time performance.
Starting wing Terrell Bell also hails from Atlanta, and he responded with a big game in front of 25 friends and family members. Bell recorded his first career double-double, finishing with a career-high 14 points and 13 rebounds. He hit two big three-pointers for the Hokies, and he also nailed two critical free throws down the stretch.
Jeff Allen had to battle with two future NBA first round draft picks – Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors – and battle is exactly what he did. Allen suffered a shoulder injury late in the game, but he scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds before he had to exit the game.
Malcolm Delaney also came up with another huge performance, narrowly missing a double-double. Delaney scored 31 points, nailing four first-half three-pointers and finishing 14-of-17 from the free throw line. He also dished out a game-high nine assists. The Hokies had 16 assists as a team, and they had 12 in the first half.
Victor Davila added 10 points for Tech, eight of which came on dunks. Davila had one big putback slam off an offensive rebound, and his other three dunks came as a result of great passing and floor vision by his teammates. J.T. Thompson also had a productive game, finishing with eight points and two rebounds.
The Hokies shot 51% from the field, and 52.9% from three-point range. They were 8-of-10 on their outside jumpers in the first half. Georgia Tech shot just 38% from the field. They attempted 27 three-pointers, and had a hard time getting the ball inside to their dominant frontcourt duo of Favors and Lawal. Both players finished with 18 points, but they did not do a good job of establishing position against Virginia Tech’s smaller frontcourt.
Georgia Tech’s shortest starter is 6-5. Despite being the smaller team, the Hokies were able to outrebound the Yellow Jackets 38-36. VT was not the more talented team in this game, particularly without Hudson, but they were the better coached team, and they managed to fight their way to a huge road win.
Georgia Tech made the first basket, a three-pointer by Zach Peacock, but that was the only time in the game they held the lead. The Hokies came right back and took a quick 5-3 lead before the Yellow Jackets tied it at 5 with 16:20 left in the first half. That was also the only time the game was tied. After Jeff Allen scored to make it 7-5 Hokies, Georgia Tech never led again, and never even managed to tie the game.
The Hokies led by as many as 11 points in the first half, though Georgia Tech cut into the lead late, and VT held a 45-39 advantage at halftime. However, Virginia Tech shot lights out in the first half, going 59.3% from the field and 80% from three-point range. They were going to cool off in the second half.
That’s exactly what happened, but VT’s defense also stiffened up through most of the first half as well. The teams played evenly through the first six minutes of the second half, but Virginia Tech eventually put up a big run and led by as many as 17 points.
The Hokies led by 16 points, 77-61, after two free throws by Jeff Allen with 7:55 remaining in the game. Georgia Tech had been a great home team all season, so they were expected to make a run down the stretch. That’s exactly what they did.
The Jackets used their great talent to cut the VT lead to as little as three points, 83-80, with 36 seconds remaining. A Jeff Allen free throw gave the Hokies an 84-80 lead, and Georgia Tech had a chance to cut into it. However, a three-pointer from D’Andre Bell was no good, and Terrell Bell knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to 86-80 with 22 seconds left.
After the Yellow Jackets missed again, Malcolm Delaney iced the game with his final two free throws. A garbage time basket by Derrick Favors made the final score 88-82. The Hokies’ last field goal came on a Victor Davila dunk with 10:26 remaining, yet they managed to hang on and win the game and put up 88 points in the process.
Virginia Tech is locked into the #4 seed in the ACC tournament. They will get a first round bye on Thursday, and play the winner of the #5/#12 game on Friday at 2pm. The game will be televised by Raycom/ESPN2.