For Virginia, it was another win for its young team, the third in a row, albeit a lot closer than it was supposed to be. For Virginia Tech, an opportunity for a big upset slipped away.
Behind clutch free throw shooting by guard Donald Hand and rebounding by center Travis Watson, the Cavaliers (13-5) survived an overtime and defeated the Hokies, 71-66, before a 7,221 at Richmond Coliseum. Virginia led by 12 with 11 minutes to go but allowed Virginia Tech (9-9) to run off 13 unanswered points to take a 54-53 lead with 5 minutes 15 seconds remaining.
"I was very pleased with the effort our team displayed," said first-year Virginia Tech coach Ricky Stokes, who starred as a guard for Virginia in the early 1980s and was later an assistant coach there. "They put themselves in a position to win. . . . Virginia had to make some tough shots to win this game."
Led by the slashing play of senior guard Brendan Dunlop, who scored nine points in the second half and four in overtime before fouling out, the Hokies nearly pulled off the upset before falling too far behind in the final minute of overtime. Dunlop (Maret), who finished with 15 points, kept the Hokies in the game with a stunning pair of drives into the heart of Virginia's defense early in the overtime, bringing them within 65-64 with 2:20 left. But Dunlop's contact with Watson on the ensuing play was ruled a foul--Dunlop's fifth.
Watson sank both free throws for a 67-64 lead. Virginia Tech forward Dennis Mims hit a short jumper with 1:45 left, and both teams missed shots before Watson was manhandled by Mims under the basket with 36 seconds left, sending him to the line in a one-and-one situation. Watson missed the first free throw, but Hokies freshman guard Brian Chase (Dunbar) missed his second open three-point attempt of the final 1:30, and Watson rebounded before passing to Hand, who was fouled. Hand sank both free throws with 12 seconds left, and then fouled Chase with seven seconds to go. Chase missed the front end of the one-and-one, which was rebounded by Watson, who again passed to Hand. The junior point guard, who finished with a game-high 21 points, then made two more free throws, ensuring the victory.
"We definitely worried at the end," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said. "We are fortunate that [Chase's attempt] did not go in. We did not want him to take that shot."
With neither team taking control over the final three minutes of regulation despite several opportunities, Virginia was set to inbounds the ball after a timeout with 39 seconds left and the score tied at 60, and the ball changed possessions several times before a Hand three-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
Virginia appeared ready to break the game open with a 14-2 run midway through the second half. But after taking a 53-41 lead on a strong layup by Mason (Good Counsel) with 11:39 to go, the Hokies clawed back over the next six minutes with a 13-0 run of their own. Combining effective use of junior forward Rolan Roberts (Potomac, Va.) and the Cavaliers' inability to make a shot, Virginia Tech took a 54-53 lead on a 15-footer by Chase with 5:15 remaining.
Both teams had 19 turnovers, but Virginia Tech had 25 points off turnovers vs. the Cavaliers' 10.
"They played a great pressure defense," Gillen said. "They have very effective hands."
The Cavaliers had been off for five days since their 87-85 defeat of North Carolina Jan. 18, and it showed. Virginia opened the game rusty, turning over the ball on its first three possessions. The Cavaliers scored on just one of the first eight times they held the ball.
"They took it to us early," Gillen said. "They rung our bell. They out-hustled and out-scrapped us for the first 10 minutes."