Last year, the Virginia Tech Hokies came agonizingly close to pulling off the upset against Virginia with the Hoos making a late comeback to pull off the upset. This year, there was a small hope entering tonight that the Hokies could pull off the upset after their comeback win over N.C. State.
That hope became elation and joy.
Virginia Tech pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season so far, taking down rival and fourth-ranked Virginia 70-68. This is the first time the Hokies have beaten a ranked team since December of 2012, and their first win over a top 5 team since the Hokies beat #1 Duke in 2011 with College Gameday in town.
After a low-scoring first half that had the Hokies up five at halftime, both teams got going right at the start of the second half with London Perrantes hitting four threes in the first five minutes to give Virginia a four-point lead at the under-16 media timeout. The Wahoos did not have a lead larger than four at any point before or after that moment in the game.
The Hokies continue to play with tons of energy, grit, and toughness; and were paid off for it with the lead stretching out to as much as 11. However, Virginia made a late run, but it was too little too late as the Hokies were able to hold on thanks to a late block inside the final few seconds to preserve the two-point victory.
The Hokies were tremendous on the defensive end of the floor forcing 16 turnovers while only turning the ball over eight times against Virginia's traditionally tough defense. Virginia Tech did an even better job of taking advantage of the Wahoos' mistakes with 26 points off Virginia's 16 turnovers.
Virginia Tech may have only shot 13-of-22 from the free-throw line, but got to the line significantly more than Virginia, and made two more free throws than the Wahoos while also giving up only 10 offensive rebounds, an improvement from other recent games.
Virginia Tech's shooting from beyond the arc was quite good as the Hokies may 9 of their 17 three-point attempts including strong nights from Justin Bibbs and Zach LeDay. Virginia Tech's ball movement was also quite good tonight with 17 assists on the game, 2 more than the 15 assists for Virginia.
The Hokies were led by Zach LeDay who had 22 points and 7 rebounds with 18 of his points coming in the second half. LeDay was aggressive in the second half, and rose to the occasion with 3 threes in the second half along with some important shots. LeDay was able to counter twice early in the second half for the Hokies with five points when London Perrantes couldn't seem to miss a three-pointer.
LeDay played with confidence and found great rhythm in the second half offensively to lead the Hokies in what was definitely the best half of basketball of his career.
Justin Bibbs was big in the first half for the Hokies with 11 of his 16 points coming in the first 20 minutes. After only having 15 points total in the previous three games, Bibbs had a big bounce-back game as the sophomore was back to making plenty of shots from beyond the arc as he made four of his five three-point attempts.
Seth Allen had only 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting, but Allen brought some much-needed poise for much of this game along with making some great passes to set up easy layups. Kerry Blackshear is playing with confidence right now as he had a strong game with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist.
Justin Robinson may be emerging as a better point guard option than Devin Wilson after another solid performance with 5 points, 6 assists, and 1 block. Jalen Hudson had a disappointing night offensively with only 2 points, but seemed solid defensively while Devin Wilson had 2 points and 4 fouls. Shane Henry's energy helped him make an impact tonight despite not scoring with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a couple of great defensive plays.
For Buzz Williams, this victory is a game-changer and a big step in the rebuilding process. To win a game like this against the fourth-ranked team in the country will only increase the confidence of what is a young team with only one senior in Henry.
Looking ahead, Virginia Tech seems like a team ready to make a strong push for a spot in the NIT with a signature win against Virginia now on their resume. A spot in the NCAA Tournament seems very unlikely but in a strong ACC, going .500 from here on out with a win in the ACC Tournament would put them at 19-14 and on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Buzz Williams and the Hokies have been headed in the right direction even in the tough losses, and this win is the biggest sign of that to date.