By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
CORAL GABLES, Fla., Jan. 23 -- That law of physics, about for every action there being an equal and opposite reaction? It was as if No. 24 Virginia Tech offered itself as a living, breathing, sweating science experiment Tuesday night at BankUnited Center. Every time the Miami Hurricanes pushed in a gritty second-half comeback attempt, the Hokies pushed back.
In the end, Miami ran out of shots and hope and time.
The Hokies, who frittered away a 21-point first-half lead, handed the Hurricanes their fourth straight loss, 92-85. Miami closed to four points twice in the final four minutes, but Virginia Tech thwarted those rallies, providing the victory but not, at least for Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg, much satisfaction.
Miami outscored the Hokies in the second half, 56-50.
"I never played in a game where we gave up 56 points [in a half] and won the game," Greenberg said, clearly exasperated. "Early in the game it was too easy. I knew it wasn't going to be that easy."
The Hokies' Zabian Dowdell led the way with 30 points, and Deron Washington added 23, including 15 in the second half, as the Hokies converted 58 percent (25 of 43) of their shots. Washington's bruising moves to the basket in the waning minutes essentially halted a comeback that Virginia Tech's defense couldn't. Meantime, the Hokies' performance from the free throw line made Miami's mission impossible.
Virginia Tech (15-5, 5-1 ACC) made 34 of 42 free throws.
"We cut it to six, but we could just never get over that hump," Miami Coach Frank Haith said. "It's tough to win when a team shoots 42 free throws."
Miami (9-12, 2-5) finally broke through with 7 minutes 10 seconds remaining, riding back-to-back jumpers from Brian Asbury and Jack McClinton to close the margin to 68-62, the closest the Hurricanes had been since early in the game. But Washington answered seconds later with a thunderous dunk. The Hurricanes, though, stayed in it, and a goaltending violation brought them to within four at the 3:39 mark.
"When they cut it to four, we could have folded and we didn't," Greenberg said. "We made enough free throws and enough passes to win the game."
Two days after trekking through a driving snowstorm to defeat Maryland in Blacksburg, Va., the Hokies were met with sunshine and unseasonably warm and humid conditions in Miami. If they were cold against Maryland, shooting less than 40 percent from the field, against the Hurricanes they were -- well, they started with six three-point shots in the game's first 13 minutes and cruised to an early double-digit lead.
A string of three straight three-pointers from Dowdell, Washington and Jamon Gordon to open the game made the score 17-4. Another string of three-pointers (two from A.D. Vassallo, another from Washington) midway through the first half, along with a couple of inside scores that the hot shooting created, pushed the lead to 36-15 with six minutes left in the half.
The Hurricanes shrank Virginia Tech's lead to 13, 42-29, at the half, benefiting from a couple of steals and better shot selection. The second half seemed to bring out a refreshed Miami team and a fatigued Virginia Tech squad.
Scores from Denis Clemente, who finished with 24 points, and McClinton helped Miami close to nine, 44-35, less than two minutes into the period, getting the crowd of about 3,000 involved for the first time.
The Hokies, however, kept putting out fires. Dowdell silenced the crowd, popping a jumper to bring the lead back to 11. Vassallo did the same -- three times -- hitting timely shots to keep the margin at double digits. Finally, Washington attacked the hoop hard late in the game as things got dangerously close, collecting 10 points in the last 4:35.
"It was a hard-fought game," Dowdell said. "Anytime you get a road win in the ACC, it's definitely great. Fatigue kind of set in quick, our legs were kind of giving out on us, but we did a good job of playing hard."