Georgia Tech's zero-for-lifetime record in University Hall had to end sometime. But few figured the losing streak would end the way it did today.
The Virginia Cavaliers, leading by eight points with 5:19 to play, collapsed, and Georgia Tech scored the final 11 points for a 64-61 victory in an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game. It was Tech's first victory in nine games here, six under Coach Bobby Cremins.
In the key stretch -- involving a seven-point swing that gave sixth-ranked Georgia Tech a 62-61 lead with 1:48 to play -- a sellout crowd of 9,000 and a regional television audience watched Virginia fail to get a shot on four straight possessions. The Cavaliers neglected even to advance the ball past midcourt three of those four times.
"This is a real downer for us," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We certainly had this one in our hands. In the Duke game (a 72-64 loss), we were in a position where we had to make great plays to win. Today we just had to make good plays, and we didn't do it."
That small stretch overshadowed a game in which Virginia (8-4, 0-2 in the ACC) excelled defensively with a sagging box-and-one on star guard Mark Price and dominated the rebounding so much that 14 of its 26 second-half points came on offensive follow-ups.
Center Olden Polynice (17 points, 10 rebounds) far outplayed John Salley, his Georgia Tech counterpart.
"We did the things we wanted to do," Polynice said. "We controlled the game . . . They knew it, and we knew it. But Mark Price had a great game. If it hadn't been for him, they wouldn't have won."
Price led Georgia Tech (11-1, 1-0) with 18 points and a stellar floor game despite Virginia's gimmick defense. It did not annoy him, as it has in the past. "The key was to be patient," Price said. "If I lose it, the team's going to lose it. That's been the case before."
Fellow guard Bruce Dalrymple had 13 points. With seven assists between them, he and Price had a direct hand in the majority of Tech's 64 points, not to mention six rebounds by Price and four by Dalrymple.
Virginia's problems started with the score 61-55 with 4 1/2 minutes to play, and the Cavaliers in possession. Mel Kennedy missed a jumper, and Georgia Tech turned two offensive rebounds into a free throw by Dalrymple and a follow-up basket by Duane Ferrell off Dalrymple's missed second shot. That made it 61-58.
By the time Virginia got another shot, a long jumper by Tom Calloway, it was 62-61, Georgia Tech, with 1:27 to play.
First Craig Neal intercepted an inbounds pass by Tom Sheehey (14 points). "I got stuck when a man was going away from the ball instead of to me," Sheehey said. But the Yellow Jackets failed to convert when Salley (six points, five rebounds) missed inside.
But sophomore guard Johnny Johnson, guarded closely by Price, was called for a 10-second violation. Dalrymple hit a 17-footer from the right wing, cutting Virginia's lead to 61-60 with 2:38 to play.
Then the Cavaliers managed to get the ball past midcourt, only to be greeted by a swarming half-court trap sprung on Calloway, who tossed a high pass toward a then-open teammate in the middle of the court. But Ferrell managed to deflect the pass, and it went out of bounds off a Virginia player.
Virginia still had a chance to take a three-point lead when Dalrymple missed a jump shot, Polynice controlled the rebound and Kennedy had broken 20 feet beyond any defender, ready to receive an outlet pass and dribble in for an uncontested basket and three-point lead.
"We do that, we're three points up, and they've got to foul us," Polynice said on a day when Virginia was 11 for 11 from the foul line.
However, Salley made his one redeeming play of the day at this point, intercepting Polynice's outlet pass and getting fouled by Sheehey on the ensuing shot.
"It was a bad play on my part," Polynice said, taking more blame than he needed.
Polynice said he never saw Salley until it was too late, until the Georgia Tech player had both hands in the air, blocking the trajectory of Polynice's pass.
"I faked like I was going down court," Salley said. "Then I jumped up with both hands in the air. I was only trying to deflect it."
His two free throws with 1:48 to play made it 62-61.
"He's playing horribly right now," Cremins said of Salley. "But he didn't give up, and that's what's important. He's going through a lot of mental things. He feels a lot of pressure. It starts with him being picked to be No. 1 in the NBA draft."
With the lead, Cremins went against his own inclinations and took the advice of his three assistant coaches: Play a zone defense. All Virginia could get in its next two possessions, around a Dalrymple miss, were missed jumpers by Calloway and Kennedy.
When Price broke Virginia's fullcourt press after a near five-second inbounds violation, the Cavaliers finally fouled him with nine seconds left, and Price made both free throws. Afterward, he jumped for joy, and Cremins said simply, "I thought we were outplayed. I thought we were outcoached . . . I'm just happy to win here."