Virginia Tech 74, UNC Greensboro 51
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP)—Now Virginia Tech can really focus on No. 1 North Carolina.
In what was a dangerous game sandwiched between an upset win over Duke and a home game against the Tar Heels, Zabian Dowdell scored 17 points and A.D. Vassallo added 16 as hot-shooting Virginia Tech beat UNC Greensboro 74-51 on Wednesday.
Dowdell and Vassallo combined to shoot 8-of-11 from 3-point range for the Hokies (12-4), who pulled away in the second half and avoided a letdown four days after an overtime win at then-No. 5 Duke and three days before the showdown with North Carolina.
“I’m really proud of our kids, their approach and how they handled this game,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “Everyone said, ‘Trap game, trap game, trap game’ and ‘What are you doing playing this game?’ They handled it like a senior-oriented team, and that’s very satisfying as a coach.”
Kyle Hines scored 21 points for the Spartans (7-9), but he got little help. Hines hit 8-of-15 shooting, but the rest of the team combined to shoot 8-for-40, including 4-of-22 from 3-point range.
In its final non-conference game, Virginia Tech led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
After the Spartans got within 38-30 on Hines’ layup with 18:07 left, the Hokies went on a 17-0 run. Coleman Collins had three consecutive dunks and a layup in the spurt, and two timeouts by UNC Greensboro coach Mike Dement couldn’t stop the damage.
“We were standing there. They are pretty long and athletic guys and defend well anyway,” Dement said. “I thought we had some open shots and they didn’t go, but we also took some bad shots which started their break.”
The Spartans, who took North Carolina State to overtime before losing last week, trailed by as many as 30 points after that. UNC Greensboro shot 29 percent and committed 15 turnovers as it fell to 0-3 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams this season.
Virginia Tech can now look forward to Saturday’s home game against the Tar Heels—the first top-ranked team to visit Cassell Coliseum since Massachusetts in February 1996.
“It’s a home game and I think the crowd on Saturday will be at a fever pitch,” said Collins, who went over 1,000 career points in the second half. “Anytime the No. 1 team comes into your house, you want to put on a good performance. We always have a chance, especially at home.”
The Hokies’ win over Duke, which was their first road win over a top five team since 1962 at No. 3 Kentucky, has given Virginia Tech hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.
The Hokies looked the part against overmatched UNC Greensboro—their athleticism, fullcourt pressure and guard play caused the Spartans fits. Virginia Tech hit 10 of its first 14 3-pointers and shot 48 percent from the field as it moved to 4-0 all-time against UNC Greensboro.
Hines was nearly a one-man show for the Spartans. While he shot 6-for-13 in the first half, his teammates combined to go 0-for-14 until Kendall Toney’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the first half cut Virginia Tech’s lead to 36-24.
The 6-foot-6 Hines was double-teamed most times he received the ball in the post, but he was often forced to throw up shots anyway. The junior scored 20 or more points for the 19th time in the past 37 games, and Greenberg called him the best low post scorer they’ve played this season.
“It’s a little flattering, but at the end of the day we still lost,” Hines said.
The game was played at the Greensboro Coliseum and a local tourism committee donated $27,544 from ticket proceeds the help Eastern Guilford High School, which was destroyed by a fire in November. Students from the high school served as Virginia Tech’s pep band.
“They had their band here playing for us. To do that after they lost their school, wearing our shirts, I thought that was pretty cool,” Greenberg said. “It didn’t go unnoticed.”