Virginia Tech overcame a late surge by Pitt to defeat the Panthers 65-61 in Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night. The Hokies won their fourth game in a row and improved to 17-13 overall and 9-8 in the ACC. Pitt dropped to 20-9 on the season, and they also have a 9-8 record in conference play.
With Wednesday night’s win, Tech is now guaranteed at least a .500 record in the ACC. They also clinched an overall winning record for the season for the first time since the 2010-11. The Hokies find themselves in a 4-way tie for sixth-place in the ACC along with Pitt, Clemson and Syracuse. How that battle plays out over the season’s final weekend will determine ACC Tournament seeding.
The Hokies didn’t start strong, falling behind by as many as nine points in the first half. Michael Young scored in the paint to give Pitt a 19-10 lead with 7:59 remaining in the first half, and Tech looked out of it offensively. However, as they’ve done so many times this year, they battled back. The Hokies went on a 12-0 run that was capped by two Zach LeDay free throws and took a 22-19 lead at the 2:37 mark.
The Panthers did come back and grab the lead late in the half, but a three-pointer by Seth Allen with 2.9 seconds left gave Tech a 27-26 halftime lead.
The game was back and forth early in the second half, but eventually Tech took control. Pitt tied the game at 32 with 16:42 remaining, but then the Hokies went on an 18-6 run that was capped by a Devin Wilson layup with 9:20 to go. At that point the Hokies led 50-38, but they still had to overcome some late adversity.
Tech led by as many as 13 points, and still led 64-52 with 3:45 remaining in the game. However, three Tech turnovers in the final three minutes nearly let Pitt back in the game. The Panthers trimmed the lead to 64-61, but a missed three-pointer by James Robinson with 23 seconds left was Pitt’s final chance. Though Tech only scored one point in the final few minutes, that one point was a Zach LeDay free throw to make the score 65-61 with 19 seconds left on the clock. The Hokies then got another defensive stop and went on to win the game.
Tech overcame an uncharacteristically bad free throw shooting night. Though they got to the line 35 times, they made only 19 shots for 54.3%. In ACC play this year, they are shooting 71.2%, and that includes Wednesday night’s poor performance.
Defense was the key to the win. In January, the Hokies couldn’t stop anybody. They allowed an average of 80.6 points per game in nine league games. Three teams broke 90 points against Tech. Since February 1, they’ve allowed an average of only 65.1 points per game. Only two opponents have scored more than 70 points against them in that eight-game stretch, and nobody has topped 74 points.
Zach LeDay paced Tech with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Justin Robinson and Seth Allen joined him in double figures with 10 points each. The Hokies committed only eight turnovers (three in the final three minutes), and they limited the Panthers to eight offensive rebounds. Coming into the game, Pitt was #11 in the country in offensive rebound percentage.
The Hokies will play their final regular season game of the year on Saturday against #7 Miami. Tipoff is scheduled for 4pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network. Check your local listings.