Virginia Tech 54, Dayton 53
Wednesday, February 18th, 1998

For 32 minutes, this game was difficult to watch. Neither team played particularly well, and it wasn't an exciting game. The Hokies, who were pulling an oh-fer from the three point line, getting beaten on the boards, and shooting about 50% from the free throw stripe, seemed to be hanging by a thread with Dayton leading 42-37.

The only thing that was keeping Tech in the game was the poor play of Dayton's two-time All-Atlantic-10 first team forward, Ryan Perryman. Perryman, who led Dayton in scoring going into the game, would finish with just 2 points on 1-6 shooting, the result of defensive efforts by Russ Wheeler and Shawn Browne. As a matter of fact, the Flyers weren't playing all that great themselves and were holding their slim lead only because one-time Tech recruit Tony Stanley and company had been hitting their three pointers.

But with 8 minutes to go in the ball game, Dayton coach Oliver Purnell sent Perryman and fellow forward Coby Turner to the bench at the same time. Big mistake. Over the next two minutes, Tech ripped off a 10-0 run and electrified the small Cassell Coliseum crowd, which had been docile for the entire game. Purnell didn't use any judicious timeouts in that stretch, and suddenly the Hokies were up 47-42 with momentum and a screaming crowd on their side.

The Flyers responded with yet another three-pointer (Dayton would eventually go 7-17 from the stripe, while the Hokies would go an abysmal 0-10) to close the gap to 47-45. Tech responded quickly with their own three-point play to take the lead up to 50-45 and complete a 13-3 run.

Just when everyone thought Tech had the game well in hand, the Hokies bogged down, and Dayton scored the next five points to lock the game up at 50 with a minute to go.

Jenis Grindstaff took the ball to the hole and drew a foul, and calmly sank the two free throws to put Tech up 52-50 with 39 seconds to go.

Although the Hokies were generally playing great interior defense, they were leaving Dayton's three-point shooters open too often, and the Flyers made the Hokies pay with yet another three-pointer, this one putting them up 53-52 with 15 seconds to go. The Hokies then brought the ball to the half-court line and called a timeout with 12 seconds to go.

I thought that with Brendan Dunlop's success late in the game at St. Bonaventure last week that he would be the go-to guy in this situation, and indeed, when the Hokies inbounded the ball, they got it to Brendan at the top of the key and seemed to be running a clear-out for him. But Jenis came off the baseline, took a pass from Brendan on the right wing, and drove immediately back to the baseline.

Two Dayton players met Jenis at the baseline and trapped him there, and Grindstaff skied for a short jumper from the side of the basket. The Flyer players played it safe, standing their ground with their hands held straight up, and Jenis levitated and slipped the ball over their outstretched arms and smoothly into the hoop with three seconds to go. The Tech crowd went nuts.  Hokies 54, Flyers 53.

After three timeouts, all the Flyers could manage was a three-point attempt by a well-covered Perryman, which fell short and to the side. Tech's victory over A-10 West leading Dayton, who came into the game with a 9-3 conference record, was assured.

This game made up for an 85-60 shellacking that the Flyers laid on the Hokies nearly five weeks ago in Dayton, in a game that Bobby Hussey called "an embarrassment to the (Virginia Tech basketball) program."  Of particular note was the rebounding performance put up by Andre Ray, who posted a whopping 9 rebounds in just 22 minutes of play. The crowd was fired up for the last 8 minutes of this game, and much of it had to do with Ray's ferocious work on the boards.

The Hokies came in with a game plan to get the ball down inside, due to Dayton's stifling perimeter defense.  The Hokies 0-for-10 three point stats will attest to Dayton's defensive expertise - Tech rarely got a good look at the basket from far away. Although Russ Wheeler and Rolan Roberts struggled from the field (4-11 and 4-14 respectively), the game plan worked well enough to earn Tech a great victory.

Stats: the Hokies outrebounded Dayton 24-12 in the second half and won the battle of the boards, 38-32 … Tech had a rare victory from the free throw line, going 10-15 to Dayton's 6-10 … the game was surprisingly devoid of fouls. Tech had 12 and Dayton had 14, for a total of only 26. No Tech player, including Rolan Roberts, had more than 3 fouls.

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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