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February 15, 2014

VT Wins Ugly, Ends Streak

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It took two and a half months, but Virginia Tech finally got its first win of 2014.

In an ugly affair that had both teams under 20 points scoring in the first half, the Hokies made their free throws down the stretch to hold off Miami 52-45 Saturday night. Junior forward C.J. Barksdale and freshman guard Devin Wilson each had 12 points, ending a 10-point losing streak.

"It feels good just to get a win, but I feel better for the guys," coach James Johnson said. "They come in, they put in a lot of time, they put in a lot of work and they compete and play hard. We've been close in so many games and haven't been able to pull it out. For those guys to be able to make plays down the stretch and pull it out, I feel good for them."

Virginia Tech got off to a solid start, as a pair of three-pointers by freshman guard Ben Emelogu for the Hokies' first points of the game also gave them their first lead. Barksdale also came off the bench for seven quick points, with his jumper giving Virginia Tech a 17-5 lead with 9:16 remaining.

But the Hokies became nearly as cold as the outside air. Virginia Tech would go over eight minutes without a point and while its zone defense stymied the Hurricanes for the most part, they got back to within 17-12 with under six minutes to play. A putback by freshman forward Trevor Thompson ended the drought with 54 seconds left.

The Hokies took a 19-15 lead into halftime in what was an at times, dreadful first half. Miami made just one of its first 14 shots from the field and 12 of its first 16 were three-point attempts. While Virginia Tech shot 36.4 percent from the floor, the Hurricanes shot just 18.5 percent.

"At this point, it just comes playing freed up and doing whatever it takes to win," Barksdale said. "It's playing as hard as we can and if we're not making shots, there's still other things we can do to help us win."

The Hokies did finally get a bit of momentum after an early Miami three-pointer. In transition, Thompson took a feed from Emelogu for a dunk and was fouled in the process. He hit the free throw for a 24-18 lead with 16:45 to go.

But Barksdale was one of the most efficient option for Virginia Tech, in a game where few others were. His layup and three-pointer gave the Hokies a 32-22 lead with 9:51 to play. The Hurricanes then cut the lead to five with 8:49 left, before a dunk by junior forward Joey Van Zegeren.

The Hurricanes cut the deficit to 35-32 with 5:05 remaining, but Virginia Tech used a 6-2 run to reclaim a seven-point advantage.

Down the stretch, thanks to a number of fouls, the Hokies got to the line more than they had the entire rest of the game. They made 10-16 free throws in the final three minutes of the game, holding off a late charge by Miami, which cut the deficit to four.

Of Virginia Tech's 52 points, 29 came from freshmen. But equally as important, Thompson had 12 rebounds, including a few putbacks. But Thompson shared the importance with his teammates.

"Devin did a really good job driving the ball and facilitating," Thompson said. "Ben did a really good job. He's been playing with his ankle, so he's just been fighting through and I just tried to rebound as best as I could, just to help the team out.

The win is the Hokies' first since an 82-66 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on New Year's Eve. The Hokies are now 9-15 overall and 2-10 in the ACC, both wins coming against the Hurricanes.

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