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February 18, 2014

VT Fights, Short To UVA

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The contrasts between the two teams couldn't have been much more.

Virginia Tech just ended a 10-game losing streak with a win Saturday, while Virginia had won nine in a row to claim a No. 14 ranking in the Associated Press poll. But throughout the game, it was tough to tell which team was which.

The Hokies led for much of the game and built an 11-point lead in the second half, but couldn't hold off a late rally by the Cavaliers, falling 57-53. It was a game in which the home team led for 26:15 but couldn't hold on.

"How hard we played, we didn't stop fighting til the end, which is something this team has always shown," freshman guard Devin Wilson said. "We don't ever quit, so we can always take that into our minds and go from there."

Wilson and junior forward Joey Van Zegeren each had 13 points.

"It's very frustrating," Van Zegeren said. "We were very prepared for it and very focused and really wanted this one. We knew we had it and we let it slip out of our hands, so it's very frustrating."

Despite playing at a slower pace in its past two games, Virginia Tech got out to a fast one to match Virginia. And while the Cavaliers grabbed an 8-2 lead on a pair of three-pointers, the Hokies struck back quickly and grabbed their first lead of the game, 11-10, on a three-pointer by junior guard Will Johnston with 13:32 to go in the first half.

Virginia answered and retook the lead at 14-13, but the Hokies reeled off a 9-0 run, capped by a nifty move by Wilson, moving from the left side of the lane to the right for a layup. By the time the Cavaliers called a timeout with 6:48 left, the Cassell Coliseum crowd roared, with Virginia Tech up 22-14.

But the Hokies would fall cold. For nearly seven minutes, they went without a field goal. It helped, though, that Virginia couldn't find an answer either. But when the Hokies did break their drought, on a three-pointer from junior forward C.J. Barksdale and three free throws by senior forward Jarell Eddie, they held a commanding 28-18 lead.

The Cavaliers did grab a bit of momentum, with a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer by sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon to cut the deficit to 28-21. But that didn't quite make up for 34.8 percent shooting from the field. Virginia Tech meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the floor.

Van Zegeren got the Hokies off to a good start, with a strong dunk in the post, but Virginia reeled off six straight points to force a Virginia Tech timeout with 16:52 left.

The Hokies, though, might have shown a bit of luck a minute later. A desperation three-pointer by freshman guard Ben Emelogu to beat the shot clock hit only the backboard. Van Zegeren was there to grab it though, get the putback and was fouled to still beat the clock with 15:52 left to go up 36-27.

Virginia Tech claimed its largest lead of the night, at 40-29 before the Cavaliers answered with a quick three-pointer. The Hokies, though, saw their lead shrink quickly. Coach James Johnson called a timeout with 9:19 to play as Virginia cut the lead down to 43-41 on a three-pointer from Brogdon.

"During that stretch, I didn't think we got the shots that we wanted, but the way we've been playing, our game plan coming in, we're not taking quick shots," Johnson said. "We're running being patient and running the shot clock down. At times, we're having to take shots right at the shot clock and we got the ball in different guys' hands, either Emelogu or Wilson. But at times, Wilson is running out of gas. We needed to execute a little better there."

But the Cavaliers hung around and with 2:32 left, took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. A three-pointer by senior guard Joe Harris put Virginia up 48-46 and forced a Virginia Tech timeout. Sophomore guard Justin Anderson then nailed a three-pointer to push the advantage to 51-46 with under two minutes left.

The Hokies had a chance, after Brogdon was called for a flagrant one for throwing an elbow on a foul by Wilson. But Eddie made just one of two free throws after a pair by Virginia.

"We need to finish games out," Van Zegeren said. "If we do that, we'll be fine."

Virginia Tech falls to 9-16 overall and 2-11 in the ACC.

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