Matthews leads Hokies past rival UVa
By Jimmy Robertson
January 22, 2003

The Virginia Tech men's basketball team and more than 8,000 fans exacted a little revenge and ended a six-game losing streak against UVa by blowing out the rival Cavaliers 73-55 at Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night.

The victory gave Tech its first win in the series since the 1995-96 NCAA Tournament team beat the Wahoos. It also marked Tech's first win over UVa in Blacksburg - the series moved to on-campus arenas in 2000 - since 1975.

"This was key," said Bryant Matthews, whose dunk at the buzzer marked his career-high 30th point and set off the wild melee after the game. "It's the in-state rivalry and we don't get much respect. And for our fans to come out and support us and for our team to come and play the way they did this was big."

With the win, Tech improved 8-8 overall, while UVa, which lost its third straight, fell to 10-6.

The game was an absolute war for the first 30 minutes, with the Hokies jumping out to a 10-point lead early and then UVa rallying to take the lead. Virginia took the lead into the locker room at halftime.

The game featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes. But Eric Branham's two free throws with 9:54 left in the game snapped a 48-48 tie and marked the final lead change of this game.

Down the stretch, it was all Tech. From the 9:54 mark to the end of the game, Tech held UVa to seven paltry points - none in the final 3:25 - and the Hokies closed the game with a 13-0 run.

Tech's defense really clamped down on the Cavaliers in the final 10 minutes. The Hokies used the long arms of Carlos Dixon and Matthews to pester UVa's smaller guards. And they used the brawn of inside guys like Terry Taylor and Dimari Thompkins to muscle UVa's big men, Travis Watson and Elton Brown. The Cavaliers shot just 36.7 percent in the second half and finished the game with 23 turnovers - eight above their average.

"I really liked the way we finished," Tech head coach Ricky Stokes said. "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."

"It feels good," center Terry Taylor said. "Last year, we blew that big lead [19 points] and this year, we said if we got the lead, we weren't blowing it. These are the new Hokies. We're playing hard. We've got our confidence up. We don't stop here. We've got many more to come."

Matthews, Tech's 6-foot-7 small forward, scored 12 of his 30 points in the final 10 minutes to help the Hokies pull away. The junior played scintillating basketball the entire game, hitting 12-of-20 shots from the floor, including 3-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc, and he also grabbed nine rebounds.

He got help from Dixon and Taylor, who scored 15 and 10, respectively. The Hokies shot just 40 percent from the floor, but they took care of the ball, committing just 11 turnovers. And they grabbed 16 offensive rebounds against the bigger Cavaliers.

Watson led the Cavaliers with 11 points and five rebounds. No other Cavalier reached double figures.

The Hokies continue their homestand this Saturday by taking on St. John's in a key BIG EAST game.

"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."