February 28th, 2006
by Andrew Kinney, Senior Staff Writer
The Virginia Tech men's basketball team overcame a sluggish, sloppy first half Saturday as it crafted a series of well-executed runs down the stretch to defeat the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 72-61.
After settling for a 27-all tie going into halftime, the Hokies were able to attain a feat they hadn't pulled off in a while -- put the game away late in the second half.
Leading the way for the Hokies was junior Zabian Dowdell, who finished atop all scorers with 20 points. Despite his success, the 6-foot-3-inch point guard started off cold like his teammates, going two-for-five in the first half for a total of five points.
"I got in a little bit of foul trouble," Dowdell said. "I kept having to come out of the game -- I couldn't really get a rhythm. Once I got back in, I just wanted to be aggressive and make things happen out there."
Not to be forgotten were the other aspects of Dowdell's performance as he racked up five rebounds, five assists and four steals in the win.
"Zab was Zab," said Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. "He played a game that we expect from him. He looked like he had his legs, he had good focus, he was coming off screens hard. He made some plays that we've seen before and it was good to see them again."
Junior shooting guard Jamon Gordon, who earlier this season described the combination of Dowdell and himself as one of the best guard tandems in the conference, displayed another strong showing in defense of that claim, as the starter contributed significantly to Tech's winning effort, finishing with a total of 15 points.
Time and time again the twosome was able to put significant defensive pressure on the Seminoles, wreaking havoc throughout much of the night against the Florida State backcourt. In addition to preventing any Seminole guard from reaching double figures, the duo was able to force eight turnovers, recording four steals apiece.
"I think we did a good job defensively the entire game," Dowdell said. "I think our intensity on defense was great. I think that's why we came out with the win today. Any time we can come out with that defensive intensity, we're going to come out with the win."
Gordon accredited the team's success defensively to having a sharper mindset.
"I wouldn't say there was more intensity," Gordon said. "Today we were more focused ... the players were more focused. We go hard every day, concentrating on certain things, and people (are) getting back into getting to know their roles again."
Two of those players who got to know their roles again included junior Coleman Collins and sophomore Deron Washington, who added totals of 13 and 12 points, respectively. With the Hokie backcourt keeping Tech in the game from mid-to-long-range, Collins and Washington maintained Tech's interior, racking up a combined total of 13 rebounds on the night, nine of which belonged to the sophomore.
"We just came out playing hard," Washington said. "Coach got on me all this week telling me to get some more rebounds, so I just focused on getting rebounds this game. It felt good, I just knew I had to out-rebound the guards."
After struggling in a first half that saw Dowdell and Gordon go a combined three-for-nine from the field, the two were able to serve as catalysts in sparking the Hokies' offense during the second half, scoring a combined 28 points to help put away the Seminoles for good.
"I think we just came out and played hard," Gordon said. "Against Miami we didn't really play hard at all, tonight we just came out playing hard ... and that just set the tone."
The victory for the Hokies improved Tech's record to 14-13 (4-10), placing them at 10th place amongst the Atlantic Coast Conference, and served to end the team's three-game losing streak.
The Hokies return back to action 7 p.m. Wednesday as they host Clemson University at Cassell Coliseum. The game will be senior night for Allen Calloway, Shawn Harris and Bob Ritchie.