Zabian Dowdell scored Tech's final eight points of the game and hit a clutch 3-pointer with 24 seconds left as the Hokies staved off an upset bid by Tennessee-Chattanooga 63-59 in a non-conference game played in front of 8,855 fans at Cassell Coliseum on Thursday night.
With the win, the Hokies moved to 4-0 on the season. This marks the first time the Hokies have won their first four games of the season since 1993. UTC, a member of the Southern Conference, fell to 2-2 on the year.
Dowdell's heroics came with under two minutes left in the game. With the score tied at 55, he hit two free throws to give the Hokies a 57-55 lead with 1:16 left. UTC turned the ball over on its next possession, and the Hokies ran the shot clock all the way down. With only a few ticks left on the shot clock, Dowdell canned a 3-pointer over UTC's Casey Long with 24 seconds left to give the Hokies a 60-55 lead.
"I could hear the coaches give me the countdown [off the shot clock]," Dowdell said. "The guy [Long] was playing off of me, so I took the shot and I was fortunate enough to make it."
The five-point lead proved insurmountable for the Moccasins. Long hit two free throws with 17 seconds left to cut the Tech lead to three, but Dowdell answered with two free throws with 10.9 seconds left to push the lead back to five. Long scored a meaningless basket with only a few seconds left to account for the final margin.
"Zab's not afraid to take a big shot," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "He's got a little 'hero' syndrome in him. He likes taking those shots. He's not afraid and that's a good thing because we were getting a little passive.
Dowdell finished with a game-high 19 points in what turned out to be an entertaining game. Neither team could shake the other - Tech's biggest lead was seven, while UTC's biggest was six.
But Dowdell managed to hit 6-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. He made 5-of-6 from the free-throw line as well and basically carried the Hokies on a night when they got badly outrebounded (49-28) and shot just 36.1 percent from the floor. On the flip side, the Hokies forced 22 turnovers and scored 29 points off those turnovers.
"I'm obviously extremely concerned about the rebounding, but we were plus-14 on turnovers, so we got nine or 10 more shots," Greenberg said. "That means there's going to be more rebounds. The things we have to eliminate are the second-chance points and the offensive rebounds.
"But when we were down four [late in the game], we could have easily folded our tent. We had two freshmen and three sophomores out there at one point and we could have said 'It's not our night.' But that's not who we are."
Jamon Gordon added 12 points, five assists and four steals for the Hokies, and Deron Washington chipped in 11 points and nine boards. Tech forward Carlos Dixon suffered a tough game, hitting just 1-of-13 from the floor and finishing with six points.
The Moccasins got 14 points from Steve Long to pace four players in double figures.
The Hokies will try to improve to 5-0 to start the season for the first time since 1984 when they travel to Lexington, Va., this Saturday. Tech takes on VMI, with the tip-off slated for 2 p.m.