Thursday, February 02, 2006

Virginia Tech 63, Georgia Tech 62

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- For the first time in a while, things actually went the Hokies' way.

Tied at 62 apiece with only 16 seconds remaining in the game, Georgia Tech guard D'Andre Bell let the clock wind down and took one of his 10 attempted shots that could have easily put the Hokies away. Unfortunately for the freshman, the ball took a Virginia Tech bounce off the rim, erasing all chance of a heroic finish for Bell. Fortunately for Bell's team though, the ball landed right into the hands of Georgia Tech forward Jeremis Smith, who leaped over Hokie forward Deron Washington and tipped in the game-winning basket to put the Yellow Jackets up two with 0.5 seconds left.

Oh wait, nevermind that last part.

Smith's basket was was immediately waved off by the referees, as he was issued an over-the-back foul, much to the delight of everyone every Hokie fan in attendance at Cassell Coliseum.

This monumental, game-changing call for Virginia Tech seemed ironic in a way in that it was made on a night in which the referees had been missing and overlooking numerous calls that would have benefited the Hokies. Yet with having such an important, game-changing result, the call was simple--Smith had gone over the back of Washington, and since the Yellow Jackets were in the double bonus, the sophomore Hokie forward was to shoot two free throws.

Now as I watched this all unfold from down on the court, I honestly wasn't the least bit certain that Washington would even make one free throw, let alone two. For those of you who have been watching Virginia Tech play this year, you all know that they are amongst the worst in the entire universe in terms of free throw shooting. In fact, on the season, Washington has been shooting a dismal 61.5 percent behind from the charity stripe.

So as he, of all people approached the line, I could only squint my eyes in utter nervousness to see if he could erase my doubting thoughts. Fortunately for the Hokies, that he did, as his first free throw bounced twice off the rim and right through the orange halo for the win. After an intentional miss, Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and threw up a prayer of a shot that wasn't answered, and Virginia Tech had escaped with a one-point win.

When looking back on the night though, Washington was one of many players who stood out for Virginia Tech. In his first game back from suspension, he scored a team-high 21 points, going an impressive 8-11 from the floor. On the defensive side he was a presence as well, grabbing six rebounds to go along with a steal and a block.

Virginia Tech was also able to see beneficial outputs from junior guard Zabian Dowdell, who added 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Forwards A.D.Vassallo and Wynton Witherspoon were also able to contribute, as both saw significant minutes once again and finished with respective totals of 13 and 11 points each.

The only real downside to the win was that Virginia Tech was able to see how much of a downfall it was to not having center Coleman Collins in the lineup. With no 'true' center down low in the post for the Hokies, the team was abused from start to finish by Georgia Tech big men Ra'Sean Dickey and Jeremis Smith. Dickey finished the night after dropping 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Smith was able to boast a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 14 boards. In sum, Coleman's inside presence was deeply missed, for his replacements simply weren't getting the job done down low.

After sending Georgia Tech to another loss (9-10, 2-6) on the season, the Hokies improved their record to 12-9 (2-6) on the year and moved up to tie the Yellow Jackets for 10th place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hokies look to continue their short-lived conference winning streak as they will be returning back into action Saturday when they host Boston College at 7 P.M.

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