UVA looses heartbreaker to VA Tech

Mike Fazzini

About 8,000 Virginia Tech basketball fans witnessed a great step for their basketball program Tuesday night, when the Virginia Tech Hokies blew out the Virginia Cavaliers 73-55. It was the first time Virginia Tech had beaten UVA since the 1995-1996 season and is also the first time that Virginia Tech has beaten UVA in Blacksburg since 1975.

The Hokies were led by junior Bryant Matthews who scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and pulled down nine rebounds. Matthews played great the entire game, hitting 12 out of 20 shots from the floor, including three out of eight from beyond the arc.

But the most significant statistic of the night was the turnover battle. Virginia Tech forced UVA to turn the ball over 23 times, eight above their average, while only turning the ball over 11 times themselves.

UVA managed to score only seven points in the last 10 minutes as Virginia Tech pulled away and started to extend their lead. The Hokies received excellent defensive efforts from Terry Taylor and Dimari Thompkins, who out-muscled UVA’s big men and kept the Cavaliers from getting easy points inside.

When asked about his team’s play down the stretch, Virginia Tech head coach Ricky Stokes said, “I really liked the way we finished. That’s something we’ve been stressing. We’ve played well in stretches, but we haven’t always finished games. But I’m proud of the way the kids handled the adversity. We’re continuing to grow as a team.”

UVA was lead by Travis Watson, who scored 11 points but was the only Cavalier to reach double figures. Despite shooting 42.9 percent from the field, compared to 40.3 percent by Virginia Tech, UVA dropped its third straight game, giving them a record of 10-6.

The win brings Virginia Tech’s record to 8-8 as they try to make the Big East Tournament for the first time since the format changed. Also, if the Hokies can stay above .500, they would qualify for a NIT bid. However, this seems unlikely, as the Hokies are far from a Big East powerhouse. An NCAA tournament bid is even farther away in the realm of possibilities, but not entirely out of the question if the Hokies continue to play the way they are right now. The Hokies have won their last four conference games at home and if they can start to win on the road, Virginia Tech is not far off from becoming a team to be reckoned with. This marks their second win in a row and the Hokies are playing their best basketball right now. “It’s satisfying and it’s a confidence builder for us to go out and finish the season the way we should have started,” Matthews said. “But the season is still young. We’ve got a lot of games left to go.”

All in all, this upset is good for every team in the Big East, especially teams that might be on the bubble at the end of the season, like Villanova. UVA is a bubble team and the more bad losses bubble teams have, the better it is for Villanova.