BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 19 -- On Dec. 4, the football teams from the University of Miami and Virginia Tech played a game in the Orange Bowl that decided the ACC championship. Much to the surprise of nearly everyone else in the ACC, the Hurricanes and Hokies played a basketball game here Saturday night that actually meant something, too.
And, like in football, the Hokies beat the Hurricanes, sweeping the regular season series with a 71-58 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 9,847 in Cassell Coliseum. Virginia Tech (14-10, 7-6) won its second game in a row to move one game above .500 in conference games and remain in a fourth-place tie with Maryland in the ACC standings. The Hurricanes (15-9, 6-7), who lost to the Hokies, 73-63, in Miami on Feb. 2, lost for the fourth time in their last six games and fell into sixth place.
"Seven wins in the league is not the end," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "Hopefully, it's just the beginning."
How important was Saturday night's game between the ACC neophytes? Miami Coach Frank Haith underwent an emergency appendectomy Thursday, but flew to nearby Roanoke on Saturday afternoon and joined his team at a hotel around 2 p.m. Haith, 39, spent nearly the entire game standing on the sideline and was seen holding his side and grimacing after his team lost.
Haith, a former Texas assistant in his first season as a head coach, was so disgusted with his team's performance in the first half, in which the Hokies shot 60 percent and took a 41-28 lead, he slammed the door to the Hurricanes' locker room so hard at intermission that it wouldn't open. When the Hurricanes tried to leave for warmups before the second half, security officers had to pry the door open with a crow bar.
"We didn't play," Haith said afterward. "For whatever reason, the effort was not there. I wanted us to play well. This is a big game, and I wanted our guys to understand the ramifications of this game. We needed a couple of more wins to get to the NCAAs. I wanted us to fight to try to get a couple of more wins."
Haith should have stayed in the locker room during the second half because his players didn't put up much of a fight. The Hokies held the Hurricanes without a field goal for nearly 13 minutes, a drought that helped Virginia Tech extend its lead from eight points to 19. Miami made only two field goals in the final 14 minutes 52 seconds -- guard Robert Hite made a three-pointer with 1:58 left, and reserve Raymond Hicks made a layup with 16.7 seconds remaining.
"I think we just worked hard on the defensive end," guard Zabian Dowdell said. "I think we've got a better idea of how to play hard and how to play hard for 40 minutes. Before the season started, people were saying we wouldn't be able to even win one game in the ACC. I think we've raised a lot of eyebrows doing what we've done."
Less than 48 hours after upsetting No. 7 Duke, 67-65, in one of the biggest victories in school history, the Hokies came out firing against the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech took a 21-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and made 12 of its first 18 shots in going ahead, 29-20. Miami led only once -- 1-0 on guard Guillermo Diaz's foul shot less than two minutes into the game. The Hurricanes made only 3 of 13 three-point attempts and had 16 turnovers.
Sophomore center Coleman Collins led Tech with 18 points and five rebounds, and Dowdell scored 17 on 5-for-8 shooting. Forward Walter Frisby and guard Anthony Harris led the Hurricanes with 12 points apiece.
Virginia Tech doesn't play again until Saturday, when it plays at North Carolina State. The Hokies play at Clemson on March 1 and host Maryland in their March 5 finale.
Virginia Tech probably needs to finish 9-7 in the ACC to get consideration for an at-large NCAA bid. After beating Duke, the Hokies' Ratings Percentage Index ranking jumped from No. 135 to 109 and will rise after the sweep of Miami.
"I know our guys know in the back of their heads that we've got seven league wins and if we get nine, they're not going to leave an ACC team out. At least that's what I think," Greenberg said. "I could sit here and politic all I want, and then we could lose three in a row, and I'd look like the village idiot. I just know that we've got seven league wins, and we've got N.C. State next."