Xavier 81, Virginia Tech 72

Hokie Central's Game Report

Well, despite the fact that I had RK surgery on one eye two days earlier,and I couldn't really see very well out of either eye, I dragged my one-eyed self out to Cassell Coliseum, because this was an important one ... and because my TV guide was telling me that HTS chose to show the women's ACC tournament final instead of Tech's game against the 13th-ranked team in the country. Naturally, WDBJ-7 was no help, because they were showing the UVa game, and WSLS was showing NBA basketball. Yes, that's right - the futiliy of trying to run a big-time sports program in ACC country when you're not in the ACC was once again pointed out in big block letters.

But enough of that. Let's rap about the game. The last time these two teams met, Tech made 9 of their first 10 shots, and the game was tied. I was listening to the game on the radio, chewing the arm off the sofa, and I turned to my wife and said, "When you make 9 of your first 10 shots and you're not winning by at least 10, that's a bad sign." Xavier went on to smoke the Hokies, 102-67 in that one.

I expected more of the same in this one, but what I got instead was a clinic put on by Troy Manns, and a game that would have been a Hokie victory, if Tech had been able to do three things:

  • Stop Xavier's inside game in the first half

  • Stop Xavier from getting a million offensive boards

  • Take advantage of a stretch in the second half when Xavier reached 66 points and then got stuck there

Troy scored a career-high 30, including 7 quick ones in a late game stretch that saw the Hokies chisel a 75-63 Xavier lead down to 75-70, with about 1:45 to go. Troy generally seemed hyped and in the groove, driving early and often against a Xavier defense that leaves ample opportunity to score in the open floor. Troy finished 11-15 from the field, and you could see in his eyes that he knew no one on the floor could guard him.

On the downside, this may be the worst game I've ever seen Ace Custis play. Ace has been playing in pain for at least two weeks now, and it's really dragging down his game. He never quite seemed to be into the game, particularly during a first half which saw him get beat down low several times by Xavier's inside tandem of Johnson and Braggs. He seemed to be a step slow all game long, and he made some poor decisions that resulted in 5 turnovers for the game (although in all fairness, one of those "turnovers" came when he collapsed to the floor and dropped the ball after being whacked in the face. The ref right there, of course, saw nothing). I'm not being mean when I say that Ace played a bad game, folks. I'm just being honest.

Xavier's game plan in the first half was to pound it down low, and when they weren't scoring off first shots, they were getting second, third, and even fourth tries at it. They are scary good, and they start three sophomores and two juniors, so look for two more butt-kickings next year from the Musketeers.

The score was 43-37 at the break, and the only reason it was that close was that the Hokies were doing a stellar job of taking advantage of Xavier's half-hearted press and their inability to get back on D. Time and again, the Hokies uncharacteristically pushed the ball up the floor, and it led to a passel of layups and Xavier fouls. However, on the defensive end, as I've mentioned, it was a nightmare for the Hokies, and the Musketeers led at the break by six.

In the second half, Xavier was able to hold the lead, and at one point, they led 66-57. A crucial sequence followed in which Xavier went cold for at least four possessions in a row, and the Hokies were unable to take advantage of it, scoring only two points while missing some open shots and free throws. Xavier scored to push the lead back to 68-59, then to 70-59, and the opportunity was gone. The game was out of reach, although Troy's 7-points-in-one-minute spurt was good for some excitement at the end.

If you're looking for stats to support why we lost, here's two: Xavier outrebounded us 31-23, including 10-4 on the offensive end, and they outshot us from the free throw line, going 18-21 while we were a so-so 19-27.

It's a shame the students couldn't have been there, because despite their absence, the crowd was large (8200) and vocal. There was a lot of electricity in the air, and man, you should have seen the golf cart that Tech gave to Foster as a going-away present! I know you golfing Hokies out there would kill to have this thing! Maroon with orange accents, a big VT on the front end, wire wheels and headlights (you could play at night!). The cart was driven onto the court prior to the game by the Hokie Bird, in a tribute that featured laughter instead of tears.

The regular season is now over. Tech plays at 12 noon Wednesday in the first round of the A-10 tourney against Fordham. It will take at least two victories for the Hokies to make the NIT.

Tech's record is now 14-15, 7-9 in the Atlantic 10.

USA Today Game Statistics for Xavier 81, Virginia Tech 72

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