Virginia Tech 95, U-Conn. 74

-- George Blaney shook his head, as if his first game as a head coach in six years reminded him of why he's an assistant.

"We were just so bad offensively. I can't explain that," Blaney said after No. 18 Connecticut lost to Virginia Tech, 95-74, tonight in its first game since Coach Jim Calhoun took a leave to have surgery for prostate cancer.

Calhoun told the team about his plans at practice Monday and was at practice Tuesday, but did not make the trip to Blacksburg. He is to have surgery Thursday and expects to miss about three weeks, with Blaney filling in.

The Huskies (13-5, 4-3 Big East) shot 34 percent, had 19 turnovers and were outmuscled by the Hokies, who beat a ranked opponent for the first time since they topped Virginia on Dec. 28, 1995.

"We never got it inside. We never got it behind their zone," said Blaney, who last was a head coach at Seton Hall in the 1996-97 season.

He refused to blame the loss on Calhoun's situation. "I think we were shell-shocked by not being able to pass the ball," Blaney said. "I think our attitude was right, but our passing was wrong."

The victory was key for the Hokies (9-11, 2-5), who are in their third year in the Big East and trying to earn their first trip to the conference tournament, held at Madison Square Garden. To do it, they have to avoid being last in their division.

"It's a big win because we know it helps us go to Madison Square Garden," Hokies forward Carlos Dixon said after scoring 21 points. "We think about that all the time."

Terry Taylor, left, and Brian Chase celebrate upset of No. 18 Connecticut, which was without Coach Jim Calhoun.