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Virginia basketball scores 57-54 win at Virginia Tech in ACC opener

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By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 11:07 PM

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BLACKSBURG, VA. - Logic says that eight games into a season, a team that returned its entire starting lineup from a year ago would have a much better grip on itself than one that features five freshmen and a sophomore.

But Sunday night at Cassell Coliseum, Virginia showed just how little experience matters sometimes if you've got an identity, scoring a 57-54 victory over rival Virginia Tech in both teams' ACC opener.

It was the Cavaliers' second straight win - and first in Blacksburg since 2006 - and came just six days after Virginia upset No. 15 Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Hokies, meanwhile, dropped their third straight contest and find themselves with a .500 record after many preseason accolades were thrown their way.

Virginia (5-3) jumped out to a 36-24 halftime lead before some heady plays down the stretch and its slow-paced, half-court style warded off a second-half comeback by the Hokies (4-4). Forward Mike Scott finished with 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds to pace the Cavaliers. He had 13 points in the first half.

"I tell our guys, good basketball, it doesn't matter age," Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said. "When you tap into it and understand who you are as a team, and I think our team is beginning to understand that more, you'll have a chance to compete."

Virginia Tech had a chance to win late. The Hokies closed to two when forward Victor Davila hit a layup with 20 seconds remaining in the game. But on the ensuing inbounds play, Scott broke free for a home run pass and Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen (12 points, nine rebounds) intentionally fouled him before he could get a shot up.

Virginia responded by making four straight free throws. But Hokies guard Malcolm Delaney nailed a quick three to make the score 57-54 and the Cavaliers' Joe Harris (10 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one. Scott, however, came down with the offensive rebound. He, too, missed a free throw.

But Virginia Tech senior Dorenzo Hudson missed badly on a last ditch three-pointer that would have tied the game as time expired.

Afterward, the Hokies were left to lament a porous first half that saw them shoot 33.3 percent from the field. It proved to be too big a hole, especially now that Virginia Tech has gone four games without scoring more than 30 points in a half.

Similar to past defeats, players and coaches alike blamed the loss on "little things" like failed box-outs and not coming out with loose balls. Ultimately, though, it was a lack of urgency at the start that doomed them.

"There's no way we should have carried ourselves like we did coming out," said Delaney, who rebounded from a 2-for-18 showing against Purdue last Wednesday to score a game-high 26 points. "Especially this being our first ACC game and a home game, we've never come out that flat. . . . We didn't come out like we wanted to win. We don't play like we're a good team, we're just playing like we're a normal team. We got talent. We've been working too hard for us to be playing like this."

It was guile, more than hard work or talent, which proved to be the Cavaliers' elixir on this night. Even though it shot just 36.4 percent from the field in the second half, Virginia outrebounded the Hokies, committed fewer turnovers and had more assists.

Perhaps most importantly, the Cavaliers controlled the tempo and had a dominant interior presence in Scott.

"Mike Scott basically kicked our tail in the first half, and then he came up with the two big plays down the stretch," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "We just didn't give him very much resistance."

Greenberg and the Hokies have almost a week until their next game against Penn State, an opportunity to hopefully find the chemistry that led them to 25 wins a year ago. Virginia has no such worries. With two program-defining wins in a row, the Cavaliers have shown exactly what style they'll rely on this year.

Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.


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