Men's Basketball:
Virginia 71, Virginia Tech 66 (OT)
Richmond Coliseum, 1/24/00
by Will Stewart
USA Today Box Score

More than likely, this basketball series, which doesnít draw much attention in the Commonwealth of Virginia, much less outside of it, is experiencing the calm before the storm. Both Virginia and Virginia Tech have reached low points in their programsí histories recently, although the Cavaliers are a few years ahead of the Hokies in coming out of the fog and re-establishing themselves.

This series has turned into a lopsided affair featuring a storied program from a storied conference against a nomadic team that has played musical chairs in its conference membership over the last ten years. This series has become the story of an ACC mainstay against a mediocre team from the tradition-bare Atlantic 10 conference. It has all served to dim the intensity of what was once a pretty good rivalry.

But those days will soon end. Sleepy Cassell Coliseum will soon host Big East teams on a regular basis, and more than likely, Tech basketball will rise from the ashes. The Hokies are only a few years and a few recruiting classes away from selling out Cassell Coliseum again, and in the future, the annual Tech/UVa matchup will turn from what it is today into a clash of two great teams from two great conferences.

If you buy into that line of thinking, then itís true that this game wasnít supposed to mean very much in the grand scheme of things, but that didnít stop it from being a thriller. In a game the Wahoos were expected to win easily, the Hokies gave them a run for their money and arguably should have come out on top.

The Game

Unlike last year, the Hokies actually came out to play in this one. Tech got off to a hot start, led by some great hustle plays by Andre Ray, and took a 16-10 lead on a Rolan Roberts lay-up.

At this point, with 10:48 to go in the first half, Brendan Dunlop, who had been playing well, picked up his third foul of the first half and had to take a seat on the bench. At the time, this seemed like very bad news for Tech, because it left them with two freshman guards to lead them against a very good UVa team capable of applying both offensive and defensive pressure.

Indeed, the Hoos hit two straight three-pointers to tie the game up at 16, but beyond that, Dunlopís absence didnít seem to hurt the Hokies. The rest of the first half was a cat and mouse affair that saw both teams battling hard, and they went into the locker room tied at 35.

The second half was not as kind to the orange and maroon. The Hokies quickly jumped out to a 39-37 lead with 17:55 to go, but then UVa started running lay-up drills, getting cheap breakaway buckets off of great defense. From the 39-37 point until the second media timeout (with approximately 12 minutes to go), things got very rocky for the Hokies, and the game almost got away from Tech, as UVa went on a 14-2 run and almost buried Tech.

During this run, with the Hoos up 47-41, Rolan Roberts was called for a hard foul in yet another UVa breakaway situation, and things started to get ugly. According to Tech radio announcer Bill Roth, a UVa player push Rolan, and Roth said that a technical foul was coming up on UVa.

Not so fast Ė technical foul on Roberts. Tagged with two fouls simultaneously (the foul and the technical), Roberts suddenly had 4 fouls and had to sit on the bench. UVaís Donald Hand made just 2 of the 4 free throws, putting the Hoos up 49-41.

The poor reffing escalated quickly, as Brian Chase was fouled hard on Techís next possession, but it wasnít called. As Tech coach Ricky Stokes fumed and glared, UVa hit a lay-up to go up 51-41.

The refs called a walk on Tony Dobbins, and UVa scored again to take a 53-41 lead, and it looked as if the Hokies were ready to fold up and go home. They were rattled, Roberts was on the bench with four fouls, and Virginia was rolling.

And then the makeup calls started going Techís way.

It was one of the strangest things that could happen in a basketball game Ė the Hokies threw the ball to Dennis Mims three straight times, and three straight times, the refs called hand-check fouls on UVa. By the time the officials were done kissing and making up with Ricky Stokes and his players, Virginiaís momentum had been stalled.

Facing a possible blowout, the Hokies instead responded with a remarkable run. Over the next six or seven minutes, Brendan Dunlop and Russ Wheeler led Tech on the long hard road back, putting together a great 13 point run that saw the Hokies take an unlikely 54-53 lead with just over five minutes to go.

During that run, nearly every call by the refs went Techís way. UVa stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer to take the lead back at 56-54, but then the Hokies reeled off six more points in a row to take a 60-56 lead, putting the cap on an incredible 19-3 run.

So with two and a half minutes to go, the Hokies were in total control and had a four point lead, with the Hoos on the ropes. But unfortunately for the Hokies, the joy ride came to an end, and Tech came unraveled.

In the last two and a half minutes of regulation, the Hokies committed a foul (Dunlop), turned the ball over on a five second call (Dunlop), committed another foul (Mims), missed a shot (Dunlop), and traveled (Dunlop, on a play where Bill Roth and Mike Burnop insisted he was fouled).

Yet with all that, the score was tied at 60-60 with 38 seconds to go and the Wahoos bringing the ball in bounds.

After suffering through a rough two minutes, Brendan Dunlop then proceeded to make what might have been the play of the game, stealing the inbounds pass. But instead of holding the ball for one last shot, Dunlop drove down the court, and in a critical mistake, turned the ball over to UVaís Donald Hand by trying to pass to the trailing Brian Chase. Dunlop, who otherwise kept the Hokies in the game with inspired clutch shooting, committed three turnovers in two minutes, the last one the most costly.

The Hoos missed the last-second shot to end regulation. In overtime, Dunlop was able to keep Tech in it by hitting two shots, but he finally fouled out with UVa clinging to a 65-64 lead with 2:07 to go.

The two teams traded points, and with UVa leading 67-66, it came down to a wide-open three-point attempt by Tech freshman Brian Chase with about fifteen seconds to go. One day, Chase will make that shot, but not on this night. UVa rebounded his miss, the fouling started, and by the time the final gun sounded, it was 71-67, UVa.

Game Notes

  • There were 7,221 fans in attendance in the Richmond Coliseum. This game will be the last neutral site game for the foreseeable future, as next yearís game will be played in Cassell Coliseum the night before the Tech/UVa football game this November. Rest assured, there will be 10,052 screaming Hokie fans in attendance next year.
  • This marks Techís 21st loss to Virginia in the last 26 games of the series. Interestingly enough, before the recent UVa run of 21-5 against Tech started in 1978, the overall series record was a decent 49-39 in favor of UVa, but that margin has since ballooned to 70-44. Since Ralph Sampson stepped on campus for the Hoos, it has been all UVa. Twenty-plus years of musical chairs conference membership and a stint on NCAA probation for the Hokies hasnít helped.
  • This is the third time in the last 12 meetings that this game has gone to overtime. In 1989, the Hoos won 113-106 in overtime, and in 1992, they won 61-57 in double overtime.
  • Why this game isnít on TV is beyond me. Sure, the basketball rivalry is not as intense as the football rivalry, due mostly to the fact that UVa has dominated it for the last 20 years, but it still draws significant interest. Why is it that you can watch Tech vs. Duquesne later this year on ESPN2, but you canít even get Jefferson-Pilot (or Raycom, or whatever theyíre calling themselves these days) to show Tech/UVa? Pete Gillen talked after the game about this fact, pointing out that this game has not been on TV for the last two years.
  • Ricky Stokes drew raves from Tech broadcasters Bill Roth and Mike Burnop for his coolness under pressure in this game. When the technical foul was called on Rolan Roberts, it was the perfect chance for Stokes to go ballistic, because it came at a critical time for the Hokies, during a stretch where the game was starting to slip away from Tech. Stokes kept his cool, though, and the Hokies responded by coming back on their 19-3 run.

Looking Forward

The Hokies missed a prime opportunity to make some great headway towards an NIT bid. Not only would a win have boosted Techís record to 10-8 instead of 9-9, but a victory over UVa of the ACC would have canceled out early home losses to Radford and Liberty.

As it is, Tech now has 11 games plus the Atlantic 10 tournament to make a run at the 17 or 18 win season that will be required to make the NIT. The Hokies have three very stiff challenges left Ė home games against Xavier and Dayton, plus a road game at St. Bonaventure Ė but other than that, a large majority of the remaining games are games that the Hokies can win, if they continue to play well. But stringing together an 8-3 or 9-2 run to close the regular season will be extremely difficult for a team that starts two freshman guards, only plays 7 players, and has a rookie head coach. If they manage to pull it off, Iíll be very impressed.

But you can say one thing about this game: the Hokies showed great intensity. They really wanted this game, and with the exception of the second half against Temple, the effort has been there for five straight games now.

The team come homes now for two straight home games, against 9-8 UMass and 8-7 St. Bonaventure. The Hokies need to continue their recent home winning streak and then head back out on the road with an 11-9 record and momentum.

The message board posters over on HokieCentralís new basketball message board seem encouraged by how competitive the Hokies were in this game. Iím sure the Hokies arenít any more fond of "moral victories" than their fans are, but at its core, this game is indeed something that Tech can build on.

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