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JaJuan Johnson leads No. 22 Purdue past Virginia Tech, 58-55, in overtime

Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, left, drives on Virginia Tech's Terrell Bell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)
Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, left, drives on Virginia Tech's Terrell Bell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Don Petersen) (Don Petersen - AP)

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By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 1:33 AM

PurdueVa. Tech

This Story

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Despite a front court beset by injuries and inconsistency, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team had mostly held its own on the interior through six games this season.

Never before, though, had the Hokies faced a player like Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, and it showed Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum. Behind the 6-foot-10 forward's game-high 29 points, the 22nd-ranked Boilermakers escaped with a 58-55 overtime victory over Virginia Tech.

Johnson's first basket since the 9-minute, 3-second mark of the second half tied the score at 51 with less than nine seconds remaining in regulation, and he added four of Purdue's six points in the extra session.

Virginia Tech senior Malcolm Delaney had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, driving the length of the floor only to miss a fadeaway jumper over Johnson as the buzzer sounded. Delaney also turned the ball over on Virginia Tech's final possession of overtime.

It was part of a miserable night for Delaney. He missed several layups and scored just nine points on 2-of-18 shooting. This after earning ACC player of the week honors following a 30-point performance in the Hokies loss to UNLV last Sunday.

Afterward, Delaney was despondent and near tears in the locker room since Virginia Tech again missed out on the marquee victory that it has sought the past three seasons. He said it was the worst he's played during his four years at the school.

"Wide open layups; miss. Easy shots; miss. I played horrible," Delaney said. "We played hard, but not good enough. . . . It's very frustrating because this was probably the best chance we had to win, and we just didn't finish."

Forwards Jeff Allen and Victor Davila led the Hokies with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Sophomore Erick Green added eight points off the bench. The Hokies' second-leading scorer a year ago, Dorenzo Hudson, struggled once again. After going scoreless against UNLV, he had just five points Wednesday night.

Throughout the second half and overtime, neither team could pull ahead by more than five points. The Hokies didn't take their first lead of the game until Green hit a three-pointer with less than 15 minutes remaining in the second half. From there, the teams went back-and-forth, and there were seven lead changes and eight ties before the game was complete.

That's why this loss stung so much. Unlike its loss to No. 3 Kansas State to begin the season, Virginia Tech was right there with a chance to win it late. But when it mattered most, the Hokies missed several free throws and committed a couple costly turnovers. It would have been Virginia Tech's first home win over a ranked nonconference opponent since 1978.

"It's a heckuva opportunity lost," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "There's a very fine line between winning and losing. We've gotta try to find a way to get over that line."

Purdue began the game on an 11-4 run, with all of the points coming from Johnson. But the Boilermakers never could pull ahead by more than seven before halftime despite a dreadful first-half shooting performance by the Hokies.

Virginia Tech shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 1 of 7 from three-point range.

But Johnson proved to be the difference. The rest of the Boilermakers scored 29 points and shot 10 of 38 from the field. Davila played well at times guarding Johnson, but he fouled out late in regulation.

And now, the Hokies must ponder whether a season that seemed destined for the NCAA tournament just a month ago is slowly slipping away from them.

"It's not like we're losing really bad; we were in the game with these guys," Allen said.

"It's just coming down to key situations."

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