Thanks to a horrid second-half shooting performance, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team was denied a trip to the National Invitational Tournament semifinals after a 79-72 loss to Rhode Island Wednesday night.
The Hokies shot 9-for-27 from the field in the second half, and the Rams ended the game on a 31-12 run, shocking the home crowd by snatching victory from the hands of defeat.
With the loss, the Hokies end the season tied for the school record for wins in a season, finishing with an overall record of 25-9.
“This game doesn’t take away from our season,” said junior guard Malcolm Delaney after the game. “We came together as a team ... and had a great season.
Delaney finished with a game-high 24 points, adding four assists and three rebounds on the night.
In the first half, the Hokies turned the ball over 11 times, but still managed to lead 42-40 at the break.
When the second half began, Tech started off red hot, jumping out to a 56-48 lead.
With 16:13 left to play, a jump ball gave the Hokies possession with seven seconds left on the shot clock.
Tech gave the ball to junior guard Dorenzo Hudson, the hero of Monday night’s win over Connecticut. Hudson delivered, hitting a fade away 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put the Hokies ahead by 10 with just more than 16 minutes to play. He would finish the game with 19 points.
After that shot, however, the Hokies went stone cold. Tech did not hit a field goal for the next six minutes, and the Rams went on a 13-2 run, snatching a 61-60 lead.
“We stopped making good decisions ... they went on a run at the right time,” Delaney said.
The scoring went back and forth until Rams’ Keith Cothran nailed a 15-foot jumper as the shot clock wound down to put Rhode Island ahead 73-71 with two minutes left.
When the Hokies attempted to respond, junior forward JT Thompson was denied, powering to the basket to no avail, getting rejected in the lane by two Rams.
Rhode Island sealed the deal on the next possession, when Lamonte Ulner rebounded his own missed layup and made the put back with 10 seconds remaining.
“The last 14 minutes I didn’t know who they were,” Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said.
In the final seconds, Delaney made it to the free throw line but converted on just one of two attempts, and when the Rams responded with two free throws of their own with 5.8 seconds to play, the Hokies’ hopes vanished.
The final score would go on to read 79-72 in favor of the Rams, and Greenberg wasn’t happy with that.
“If someone scores 13 straight points on you, it’s probably (because of) really bad defense,” Greenberg said. “We didn’t guard the ball at all.”
Despite the loss, Dorenzo Hudson capped an overall spectacular three-game run in the NIT. He averaged 21.7 points per game during the tournament.
In a way, the game mimicked the Hokies’ season. After having seemingly locked up an NCAA Tournament bid, several untimely miscues down the stretch ultimately kept them out.
Optimistic Hokie fans can look through the loss to see that only one player that saw action tonight, Lewis Witcher, will not be back in 2010-11.
“We’ve got to get better,” Greenberg said