Virginia 58, Virginia Tech 57

Hokie Central's Game Report

It is generally understood in the basketball world that in a last-shot scenario, the referees are going to be very lax on calling a foul. Refs don't want to have the game hinge on a call any more than the fans and players do, so they're reluctant to call a foul when a player hoists a shot as time is winding down.

Players know it. Coaches know it. Often, the defenders will get a little physical on a last-second shot, and the offensive players know it, so they go hard to the goal.

I've watched the replay about six times, and I'll go on record as saying that Jim Jackson wasn't fouled on that last-second attempt. If he was fouled, it certainly wasn't hard enough to warrant a call in that situation. His shot attempt also wasn't blocked. It merely sailed lazily into the air, far from the basket, and time wound down on the Hokies.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the rest of the game.

I was walking around all day, anticipating that the Hokies probably wouldn't win, but also knowing that recent Tech/UVa games have been thrilling battles. This game was no exception. It was a back and forth contest the entire way, one in which players who played big in the first half (Alexander for UVa and Matthews for Tech) nearly disappeared in the second half. It was a game in which for every stat that went the Hokies' way (Tech had 10 turnovers to UVa's 19) there was a stat that went the Cavaliers' way (UVa outrebounded Tech 27-19). And ultimately, it was a game that came down to the last possession, and two shots that didn't fall.

Tech came out teetering, turning the ball over 3 times in their first 4 possessions (but the Hokies would only turn it over 7 more times the rest of the way). The Hokies quickly settled in and shot a torried pace, hitting 10 of their first 14 shots on the way to storming to an early 8-point lead. The Hokies, despite shooting well, couldn't shake UVa, who was led by an "unconscious" Courtney Alexander. Alexander scored 16 of UVa's 27 first half points, and at the break, Tech led just 29-27.

In the second half, the Hokies jumped out quickly, going up 36-29. At that point, UVa was struggling and ripe for the kill. Tech, however, misfired badly on four straight shots, and following a Colin Ducharme dunk and a Curtis Staples 3-pointer, UVa was right back in it, 36-34. A golden opportunity for the Hokies to separate themselves from the Wahoos had slipped by.

In the next few minutes, UVa clawed their way to the lead, behind a series of plays in which Ducharme schooled Tech freshman Russ Wheeler, scoring on two second-chance buckets and drawing a foul from Wheeler on Tech's offensive end. A storm of three-pointers by Curtis Staples followed, and with 9 minutes to go, Tech was suddenly down by six, 48-42. UVa had put together a 19-6 run, and that would be the difference in the game.

Tech eventually closed it to 58-57 on a jumper by Ace with 49.7 seconds to go, and then, with 34 seconds left to go, Tech freshman Brendan Dunlop tied up Curtis Staples out in the middle of the court, just flat reaching out and grabbing the ball as Staples dribbled it. Held ball, possession Hokies, with a chance to win.

The freshman was on a roll, so the Hokies gave it to him on the next possession. Dunlop drove to the middle with less than ten seconds to go, split the defense, and got an excellent look at the basket. His five-foot bank shot wouldn't fall, but with 5 seconds to go, the Hokies came down with the rebound...and one more chance.

I'd rather forget what happened next. Tech threw it to a wide-open Jim Jackson, who drove into the middle and put up a less-than-inspired shot that fell short. The Wahoos cleaned up the trash (no 1983 N.C. State miracles here) and ran out the last two seconds. Ball game over, 58-57.

In an effort to say some positive things before I go, I will say that I thought the Hokies played one of their better games of the year. In the first half, Courtney Alexander of UVa was simply unstoppable, and in the second, Staples made some tremendous shots, so there wasn't really anything wrong with the Hokies' defense. If they had played the same game against the cold-shooting crew that the Hoos put on the floor 3-4 years ago, Tech would have run away with this game. As it was, it was a hard-fought contest that was a bummer to lose.

Tech's record is now 14-14, 7-8 in the Atlantic 10.

USA Today Game Statistics for Virginia 58, Virginia Tech 57

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