It was a game of runs, but Virginia Tech pulled it out by defeating Princeton 86-81 in overtime on Wednesday night. The Hokies improved to 20-14 win the win, while the Tigers ended their season with a 22-7 record.
The victory gave the Hokies their first 20-win season since 2011, but it wasn’t easy. Both teams dominated parts of the game, but in the end Virginia Tech won the part of the game that mattered most: overtime.
Though Tech struggled for part of the game, 8,241 screaming Hokie fans eventually got them over the hump.
“I thought the crowd was easily the best that it’s been since I’ve been here,” Buzz Williams said after the game. “I would give credit to the fans for the victory…I do think the crowd was phenomenal…I thought it was fabulous.”
Virginia Tech needed every ounce of the energy the fanbase provided on Wednesday because Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs and Justin Robinson combined to go 3-of-21 from the field. Allen did manage to score 10 points because of his 8-of-10 performance from the free throw line, but Robinson was held scoreless, and Bibbs only scored five points.
Fortunately for the Hokies, Zach LeDay and Jalen Hudson stepped up and had huge games. LeDay had a career-high 29 points while pulling down 11 rebounds, while Hudson scored 28 points and had a career-high eight rebounds. They combined to go 20-of-34 from the floor, and LeDay also added three blocked shots.
Princeton jumped out to a 9-0 lead, and then led 12-2 at the 16:54 mark of the first half. The Princeton Offense was very new to this young group of Tech players, and they had trouble defending it early on. However, the Hokies then went on a 26-5 run of their own and took a 28-17 at the 5:20 mark of the first half on a three-pointer by Justin Bibbs. It was perhaps the Hokies’ best defensive stretch of the season.
The Tigers rallied and cut the lead to 28-26 before a 4-0 Hokie run put Tech up 32-26 at halftime. Virginia Tech then opened the second half on another 4-0 run and took a 36-26 lead (that’s a 34-14 run since Princeton’s 12-2 start, if you’re keeping track). It looked like Tech was going to run away with it, but the Tigers hung tough and the teams traded baskets for much of the second half.
The Hokies found themselves up 58-48 with 9:14 remaining, and things still seemed comfortable for the home team. That’s when Princeton made their final run of the game. The Tigers took a 64-62 lead on a three-pointer by Devin Cannaday with 3:33 left, and they held a 68-65 lead after a Myles Stephens layup with 54 seconds remaining. That 20-7 run put the Tigers in the driver’s seat, but the Hokies were able to tie the game in the final minute.
Jalen Hudson made one of two shots from the free throw line with 37 seconds left, and after a critical Princeton turnover, Seth Allen’s two free throws with 32 seconds remaining tied the game. The Hokies were fortunate to get the ball back after Hudson’s free throw, as Princeton threw the ball out of bounds against pressure defense. The Tigers missed a three-pointer and a last second tip-in at the end of regulation, and the game went to overtime tied at 68.
The Hokies never trailed in the final five minutes. Jalen Hudson’s three-pointer at the 3:54 mark gave Tech a 71-68 lead, and Virginia Tech was able to close the game out at the free throw line. The Hokies made 9-of-11 attempts from the charity stripe in the overtime period. Though they struggled from the line for most of the game, their efforts in overtime were decisive. Tech finished 26-of-37 (70.3%) from the free throw line.
Unfortunately, the Hokies don’t have much time to prepare for their second round game against #2 seed BYU. Tech will fly to Utah on Thursday and play the Cougars at 9:30pm on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30pm, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
The Hokies made their first post-season appearance since the 2011 NIT. Tech was 1-1 in the NIT that season. Tech is now 25-10 all-time in the NIT.
Zach LeDay scored a career-high 29 points. That is his team-high 28th game in double-figures this season. It is his ninth game with 20-or-more points this season.
This was LeDay’s 11th double-double of the season and his fourth 20/10 double-double of the season.
Jalen Hudson scored 28 points. That is his ninth game in double-figures this season. He also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.
This was Virginia Tech’s eighth NIT overtime game. Tech is now 5-3 in those games. This was the school’s second-consecutive NIT overtime game.
The Hokies are now 20-14 overall. The 20 wins marks the first time since the 2010-11 season that the Hokies have won 20 games in a single season. The 20 victories also match the number of victories for the Hokies in the last two seasons combined.
Tech now has 14 home wins, tied with the 2007-08 and the 1994-95 seasons for the second-highest number of home wins in a season. Tech was 17-2 in the 2009-10 season.
Postgame Quotes, Buzz Williams
Crowd tonight/going into the student section
“I just wanted to mark the moment better than just waving at them. I thought the crowd was easily the best that it’s been since I’ve been here. I want to give credit to the fans for the victory… the crowd was phenomenal. The crowd, the students, the season ticket holders, the community were fabulous. The marketing staff did a great job of getting it to that point. I thought it was really big.”
Game as a whole
“We were better than average in the first 10 minutes of the second half, offensively. We were just trading baskets. When I called that first timeout of the second half, I could feel the emotional and mental gas tank of our guys on a red light. I told them after regulation that we were incredibly fortunate to have another chance. We’ll have to play, defensively and offensively, the way we did in the first half to have a chance. Playing against that system, our guys handled it really well. It’s the cumulative effect that it’s so counter-intuitive to how you play, which is why it’s the Princeton System.”
“It’s pretty big. It’s a mile-marker. It’s the total number in the last two years for Virginia Tech and we’ll have a chance to surpass that on Friday. I saw Florida State got their 20th win last night and coach Hamilton got a significant bonus. I’ve never thought of it that way, that the 20th win as being significant because we’ve been [at Marquette] accustomed to getting more than that. I don’t want to ever think 20 is not important, but I don’t want that to be the ceiling.”
Princeton Coach Mitch Henderson
“Looking back on the season, this was a really tough loss. We haven’t lost many games like this throughout the season – or in the past few years – so I don’t know what we we’re supposed to do. It was hard to stop them down the stretch.”
“We made shots and I thought we had so many open looks when shots didn’t go in, so I’m surprised to hear [that we had the most 3’s against Virginia Tech all year]. I thought we had good looks. I feel really bad for our guys, because we have some juice left in us and we could have kept playing [in the tournament].”
“We played a great game tonight and it was a great year. We have a couple seniors we’ll miss a lot, but we’ll be ready next year.”