Virginia Tech 59, Dayton 52

Hokie Central's Game Report

For about 14 minutes, it was a heck of a lot of fun in Cassell Coliseum again.

With that much time left to go in the game, Dayton was ahead of the Hokies 41-30, and although Tech was starting to show signs of life, they couldn't close the gap against the Flyers. It was at that point though, that Coach Bill Foster removed sophomore Alvaro Tor and reinserted senior Keefe Matthews in the lineup. From then on, Troy Manns, Ace Custis, and Matthews uncorked it, and the Hokies ran over Dayton like a freight train, outscoring the Flyers 29-11 from that point on and cruising to a 59-52 victory.

Keefe carried the Hokies during a lethargic, low-scoring first half in which he went 4-4 and scored 8 of the Hokies 20 points. At half time, Tech was down 29-20, due largely to their own poor shooting and the efforts of Dayton's Josh Postorino, who shook off the jeers of the Cassell Coliseum crowd and rained down 3-pointers like Dell Curry. Behind Postorino's efforts, Dayton shot 5-10 from 3-point range in the first half and had a medium-sized crowd of about 5600 Hokies sitting on their hands.

For the second straight game, Foster had started Alvaro Tor in place of Matthews. Tor, the sophomore from Spain, posted decent scoring numbers (4-5 shooting for 8 points in only 14 minutes), but he didn't rebound well (only 1), and he struggled with positioning on both offense and defense. A couple of times early in the second half, Tor scored on the offensive end and then gave it back on the defensive end by being beaten in the post. That's when Foster decided to go with Matthews, and subsequently, that's when the Hokies quit trading baskets with Dayton and started to catch up.

The comeback wasn't all Matthews, though. There were two other keys: Troy Manns started to break down Dayton's half-court zone with the penetration dribble, and Ace went outside and started getting some open looks at the basket. With Manns dribbling and passing and Ace hitting jumpers, and with the Hokies shutting Dayton down on the defensive end (the Flyers had one field goal in the last 14 minutes), the 41-30 deficit was erased in ten minutes, and the Hokies took the lead 47-46 with about 4 minutes to play.

And the Cassell was rocking again. It was only 5600 people, sure, but it got loud.

So the upside was the play of Manns, Ace, and Matthews. The down side was the play of the Jackson twins, who seemed to have zero confidence in their shot. Jim and Dave only took 8 shots in 44 combined minutes of play, often passing up open 3's when the Hokies were in dire need of points. As usual, the Jacksons gave it back in effort, including a great steal from behind late in the game by Jim.

Foster continues to search for chemistry, and if Matthews continues to play this well, it will make his job easier. Dayton tried to guard Keefe one-on-one in the post, and when he heats up, that won't do it. You have to double-team him, which generally will shut him down. The good news is, if Keefe's drawing a double-team, then the rest of the team is open for good looks, and Ace is open for some offensive boards.

Up next is George Washington, at 9:30 Tuesday in an ESPN2 game. The Colonials are an enigma, playing so-so basketball in a year in which they were ranked in the preseason and appeared to have the inside track on the A-10 West Division championship. The game Tuesday night is a battle for second place in the West (Xavier is 6-2, GW is 5-4, and the Hokies are 4-4).

Tech's record is now 11-9, 4-4 in the Atlantic 10.

USA Today Game Statistics for Virginia Tech 59, Dayton 52

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