Virginia Tech 45, George Washington 43

Hokie Central's Game Report

What can you say about this game? I've been sitting here trying to come up with a good opening line, something dramatic that will hook you and make you keep reading, but I'm stumped. The hard part about writing about sports is that sometimes, the drama and excitement of an event exceeds your ability to capture it in words.

I'm speechless for a number of reasons. Maybe it was the back-and-forth swings of the last 12 minutes of the game. Maybe it was the picks, elbows, kicks, pushes and glares that were traded all night long between the two teams (even GW coach Mike Jarvis got into the act, gently pushing one of the Jacksons away from the GW huddle at the beginning of a timeout).

Maybe it was the long list of stellar plays - Jim Jackson's steal and dunk that put the Hokies up 29-27, Ace's driving scoop shot under Alexander Koul, Jim Jackson's diving time out, Dave Jackson taking two charges in the last two minutes (the second one with 2.8 seconds to go), Ace nailing a buzzer-beater over Koul to win the game ... the list is long. Maybe it was the volume and energy generated by 4000 screaming students. Maybe it was the fact that Tech almost had to have this win to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Maybe it was all those things rolled into one that made this an unforgettable experience. Every once in a while, you see a game that has it all, and this one did.

Except for good shooting, ha-ha.

For the record, the game was tied 43-43 with about 12 seconds left to go, and Tech in possession. Tech ran a play in which Troy Manns drove into the lane, and Alexander Koul blocked his shot. With six seconds to go, he outletted to J.J. Brade, who turned, took one step ... and plowed right over David Jackson. Charging foul, with 2.8 seconds left to go.

After two 20-second time outs, Tech inbounded from half-court to Ace, who spun, took a dribble between two GW players (it was the only time all night that GW's Shawnta Rogers didn't steal a ball that got close to him), and lofted an 18-foot swish over a hard-charging Alexander Koul.

You know the drill after that. Buzzer sounds, mayhem ensues (reference Travis Jackson's game-winner against New Mexico State if you don't remember what that looks like).

Go figure GW. To see them in person is to be impressed. Alexander Koul dwarfs everybody on the Tech team, and he's coordinated and athletic for a man his size. Yegor Mescheriakov (gesundheit!) brings a vast array of scoring skills to the game, and Shawnta Rogers is a short, glued-to-the-floor, ball-stealing nightmare who makes you pay if you put the ball anywhere he can get to it.

But in reality, GW doesn't have any scoring punch. They were 13-50 from the field, and it's a no-brainer to calculate that out as 26%. Some of that credit should naturally go to the Hokies, who did a great job defensively on Koul, and even on Mescheriakov, who provided the bulk of the GW scoring punch, going 7-16 from the field.

But enough about them. Let's talk about Tech.

In hushed tones (and sometimes not-so-hushed), people who follow Tech basketball, me included, have been pointing out that Ace Custis hasn't been coming up big in the big games for Virginia Tech. My particular worry was that I hadn't seen Ace elevate his game to new heights this year, and he didn't appear to be trying to take control and win games late.

Based on the Dayton and GW games, those days are over. Ace has always been a great passer, rebounder, and battler, and a pretty good defender. The only elements missing from his game until now have been outside shooting and aggressiveness going to the basket. Against both Dayton and GW, Ace has done what he's always done well, but he has also showed a willingness to go outside and knock down jumpers, or to take the ball to the hole.

Whether he is successful or not, those are the things you want your star player to do. I was extremely pleased with Ace's performance last night, and I'm not just talking about the last-second shot. He spent the entire first half battling down low, and in the second half, with the game see-sawing back and forth, he came outside and hit a few jumpers, including a key three-pointer. He also drove against Mescheriakov several times late in the game and scored, including one spectacular up-and-under move when Koul came over to help out.

Yes, there were key plays made by other players, but Ace Custis won this game, hands down.

This is as intense and as physical and as exciting a game as I've ever seen. There is no love lost between these two teams. At one point, Koul, who is the master of the flying elbow, decked Keefe Matthews with a swinging elbow. The play started towards the other end of the floor, and as Koul went by the prostrate Matthews, Keefe kicked out, almost tripping Koul. Glares were traded, but no foul was called. And that's how a good portion of this game went.

The good news is that these Hokies, who were recruited to play in the sleek, finesse-oriented Metro, didn't back down in this typically physical Atlantic 10 contest. Maybe our guys are learning how to play - and win - in this league.

The win puts Tech into second place in the West division of the A-10. The Hokies' next three games are on the road, against Fordham, La Salle, and Dayton, and if the Hokies can win two of them or all three, the NIT is starting to look like a good possibility, as long as Tech doesn't collapse at the end.

Tech's record is now 12-9, 5-4 in the Atlantic 10.

USA Today Game Statistics for Virginia Tech 45, George Washington 43

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