Blacksburg, VA -- On a record-setting night for La Salle’s three-point shooters, Brian Chase stole their thunder, and the Hokies pulled a rabbit out of the hat in a 96-86 overtime thriller.
Down most of the second half, the Hokies trailed 74-63 with 2:14 to go, but a 21-10 run in the last two minutes, keyed by four consecutive three-pointers by Chase, allowed the Hokies to tie it up at 84 and take the game into overtime. From there, Tech scored the first 12 points of the extra period and won the game by the final ten-point margin.
Trailing 74-63 with 2:14 to go, Tech’s Rolan Roberts hit two free throws to close the gap to 74-65. From that point on, Tech began fouling, and Chase began hitting three-pointers, making treys at the 1:58, 1:46, 1:34, and 0:25 marks.
The Hokies still found themselves down 84-82 with just under 20 seconds to go after two free throws by La Salle’s Donnie Carr, but a driving shot in the lane by Brendan Dunlop with 9.6 seconds to go tied it up. After La Salle failed to hit a three-pointer in their last possession, the game went into overtime, where Tech won easily over the deflated Explorers.
Tech weathered a game-long barrage of three-pointers from hot-shooting La Salle. The Explorers shot 15-27 from three-point range, setting a record for the number of three-pointers made against Tech in a single game since 1986, when the three-point line was introduced. La Salle made 9 three-pointers in the first half alone and sank 14 of their first 19 three-pointers.
The Hokies stayed cool and hung around by capitalizing on their talent advantage in the paint. Dennis Mims and Rolan Roberts combined for 45 points and 26 rebounds and carried Tech to a crucial 42-22 rebounding advantage.
At the end of the first half, it appeared that Tech had weathered the worst of the storm. Despite the 9 first-half threes by La Salle, the score was tied 39-39 at the break. La Salle’s hot three-point shooting didn’t let up in the second half, though, and the Explorers seemed destined to win until two key things happened: (1) Coach Ricky Stokes went to a full-court man-to-man press, which slowed La Salle’s shooting down; and (2) the Hokies started fouling with well over two minutes to go.
"Everyone was very calm (when we were down 11 with two minutes to go)," Tech Coach Ricky Stokes said after the game. "We knew they couldn’t keep shooting like that forever."
The fouling strategy was key, because the Hokies started it early. It cooled La Salle’s field goal shooting down even more than the full-court press did, and despite the fact that the Explorers shot fairly well from the free-throw line down the stretch, Chase’s three-point shooting and a few key defensive plays enabled Tech to close the gap.
Another key down the stretch were two big plays from little-used backup guard Drew Smith. The final two minutes of action went like this:
Once the game went into overtime, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Hokies would win. La Salle was reeling, and the constant trips to the free throw line had taken away their shooting touch from the field. Meanwhile, Chase was still hot, and he, Mims, Ray, and Roberts scored the first 12 points of overtime. A meaningless shot by La Salle’s Donnie Carr made the final score 96-86.
Curiously, as the Explorers fell behind in overtime, La Salle coach "Speedy" Morris chose not to foul the Hokies. As the clock wound down, the Explorers simply gave up and let Tech have the game.
In addition to 23 points and 11 rebounds from Mims, the Hokies got 22 points and 15 boards from Roberts, plus a team-high 24 points from Chase, and 12 points and 6 assists from Dunlop.
The game was well-played by both teams. La Salle shot 55% from the field (29-53), including 55% from three-point range (15-27). Carr was a perfect 6-6 from behind the arc and led La Salle with 32 points. Tech shot 53% (36-68) and 39% (7-18) from three-point range. The Hokies only had 10 turnovers, and La Salle only committed 13.
For Tech Coach Ricky Stokes and his players, the win was sweet after an uninspired performance against Duquesne just three days earlier. "I thought we showed a lot of guts and courage," said Tech center Dennis Mims. Of Chase’s clutch three-point shooting, Mims said, "Sometimes he gets down, but the great thing about Brian is we know he can come back. He was amazing tonight."
"I don’t quit until the buzzer sounds," Chase said simply.
The Hokies evened their overall record at 14-14, and their goal of a winning season comes down to Saturday’s season-ending game against Dayton. Tech clinched fourth place in the A-10 West with the win and will face Fordham in the first round of the A-10 tournament.
"We keep talking about a sense of urgency," Stokes said in his post-game remarks. "Tonight, I thought we showed that sense of urgency."