ACC tournament: Virginia Tech routs Georgia Tech for needed victory

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011; 1:44 AM

GREENSBORO, N.C. - After falling short of an NCAA tournament berth three years in a row, the stakes for Virginia Tech entering the first round of the ACC tournament were clear.

Win, and the Hokies would creep a little closer to hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. Lose and, as Coach Seth Greenberg put it last weekend following a loss to Clemson to end the regular season: "You're in the NIT. No doubt about it."

But if there was any doubt as to what goal is on Virginia Tech's mind, it was quickly put to rest in a 59-43 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night at Greensboro Coliseum. The Hokies jumped to a 15-2 lead and the margin climbed to 24 points in the second half as they cruised to a win that could be enough to earn their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007.

"We're really mature about the situation," senior Jeff Allen said after finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. "We're not running around like chickens with our heads cut off. We're just playing composed, and it worked out for us tonight."

Virginia Tech will face No. 3 seed Florida State in an ACC quarterfinal Friday night with a chance to advance to the conference semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

First, though, the Hokies had to get past the Yellow Jackets, who defeated them in January in Atlanta. It was only a year ago that the Hokies entered this tournament under similar circumstances and suffered a crushing 70-65 upset at the hands of Miami, a defeat that ultimately relegated them to the National Invitation Tournament.

But from the get-go Thursday, the Hokies (20-10) did not resemble the squad that put itself back on this year's bubble with consecutive losses last week.

With the Hokies playing an aggressive 2-3 zone, Georgia Tech (13-18) made just seven of its 30 first-half shots, and finished the game with an abysmal 32.1 shooting percentage from the floor. It was the fewest points a team has scored in the ACC tournament since 1998, and the fewest Virginia Tech has allowed facing an ACC team since joining the conference in 2004.

Meanwhile, on the offensive end, the Hokies came out blazing and entered halftime shooting 50 percent from the field.

"If we had struggled [early] we probably would have went, 'Uh oh, here we go again,'" Greenberg said. "Digging a hole, I'm not sure our team - coming off two losses - was built to play from behind."

Senior Malcolm Delaney led all players with 15 points, his 11th straight game in double figures. Sophomore Erick Green, coming off a 2-for-13 performance against Clemson, regained his shooting touch and finished with 11 points.

Perhaps the best sign, though, was the play of Allen. He did not practice much this week, nursing an ankle injury he suffered in the first half of the Clemson loss. But the Washington native showed no ill effects and notched his 16th double-double of the season.

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