La Salle 59, Virginia Tech 56

Hokie Central's Game Report

If they want to go to postseason play, this was a game the Hokies could ill afford to lose. But alas, they did anyway.

This game see-sawed the entire way. La Salle, which had lost 7 games in a row, used a burst midway through the first half to take a 34-28 lead into the locker room. Ace Custis had started slow, and La Salle, which hit 5 three-pointers in the first half, threatened to run away a couple of times. The Hokies finished the first half strong to keep it in reach, though.

Tech came out of the gate quickly in the second half, tying the game at 34, and over the next few minutes, La Salle struggled offensively, and the Hokies didn't take advantage of it. By the time La Salle righted the ship, the Hokies had failed to pull away, and the Explorers used another burst to build a lead as large as nine points with about five minutes to go.

The Hokies snapped out of it and slowly closed the gap, finally pulling to within one point at 55-54 with about 30 seconds to go. During their run, Tech had squandered several opportunities at the mis-named "free" throw line, where the Hokies went 13-24 for the game (a stat that would prove to be their undoing more than anything else that took place in the game).

Leading 55-54, La Salle set up to throw the ball in bounds after a time out. Freshman guard Brendan Dunlop was guarding the inbounds, and the La Salle player baited him by briefly extending the ball to him. Brendan took the bait and swatted the ball out of the La Salle player's hands ... and that's a technical, folks. La Salle's Mike Gizzi, who led all scorers with 19 points, canned both free throws to stretch the lead to three, and the Explorers had possession of the ball.

The Hokies had one more chance when they rebounded a missed La Salle free throw with 6 seconds left to go and La Salle leading 59-56. Tech, out of timeouts, raced up court, and according to Bill Roth's call of the game, Dave Jackson was knocked to the deck as he turned for a 3-pointer at the buzzer. La Salle got the kind of home-cooking that the Hokies never get - there was no whistle on the play, and time expired. Hang an "L" up, because it's over.

I'll leave you to pick through the stats, some of which are encouraging, but to no avail. This was a loss that Tech could not have in their quest for postseason play. The Hokies now face a tougher game than this one, at Dayton on Saturday. The fat lady just stood up, and she's clearing her throat. With upcoming games against Temple, Virginia, and Xavier, this was a must-win for the Hokies, and unless Tech can pull a win at Dayton, she may just starting singing the death knell for Tech's NIT hopes.

The only recourse then will be to (shudder) win the A-10 tournament.

Tech's record is now 13-10, 6-5 in the Atlantic 10.

USA Today Game Statistics for La Salle 59, Virginia Tech 56

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