Hokies survive, knock off Wake Forest in ACC opener
By Jimmy Robertson
December 17, 2006 BLACKSBURG - Virginia Tech cobbled together enough free throws down the stretch and the Hokies survived a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer to claim a 63-60 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over Wake Forest at Cassell Coliseum on Sunday evening in the conference opener for both teams. With the win - Tech's third straight - the Hokies improved to 7-3 overall on the season and won their first ACC opener in three attempts since joining the league. Tech also won a conference opener for the first time since 1996 when the Hokies knocked off St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 opener for both schools. "You've got to win your home games if you want to have any chance at playing in the postseason," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "Getting one under your belt takes the pressure off a little bit. You want to get one and you sure want to get that first home game. When you've got Duke and North Carolina in your next two [league games], you want to get some confidence and get a win and have your guys feel good about themselves. "And our kids know. They've been around the block a little bit. They get it. They knew that this was a big game." "Any time you can get a win in the ACC is great," Tech guard Zabian Dowdell said. "To start out 1-0 does a lot to our approach for the next practice and for our next game. For the younger guys, it's good to look at the ACC standings and know that you're going to be at the top at least for a couple of weeks [until league play starts in earnest]." Tech appeared to have this tough, physical, foul-marred game under control after Deron Washington's dunk with 3:03 left capped a 7-0 run and gave the Hokies their biggest lead, 55-49. But the Demon Deacons refused to go away, scoring on six straight possessions in the final 1:27 to cut the lead to 62-60 on Shamaine Dukes' lay-up with 1.6 seconds to go. Wake Forest (5-4, 0-1) immediately fouled Tech's Markus Sailes after Dukes' basket, with no time elapsing. Sailes made 1-of-2 at the line to give the Hokies a 63-60 lead. Wake's Michael Drum then threw a length-of-the-court pass that was picked off by Tech's Chris Tucker. But Tucker lost the ball out of bounds with less than a second to go, giving Wake one last chance. The officials reviewed the play to determine the exact amount of time remaining, and put 0.7 seconds on the clock. Dukes threw the ball in bounds for Wake, heaving it to Jamie Skeen, who threw up a long 3-pointer from the left wing with Sailes right in his face. The shot glanced off the left side of the rim at the buzzer, and the Hokies breathed a sigh of relief. "The only thing I could think of was Duke," Sailes said, referring to Tech's loss to the Blue Devils on a last-second, halfcourt shot at the buzzer in the conference opener last year. "I tried my best to put a hand in his face and fortunately he missed." Tech made 8-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final 1:55, and hit 20-of-32 from the line for the game. The two teams combined for 49 fouls and 57 free throws. Dowdell and A.D. Vassallo led the Hokies with 14 points each. Dowdell made just 2-of-13 from the floor, but made up for it somewhat by hitting 10-of-13 from the free-throw line. Jamon Gordon added 13 points for the Hokies, who, as a team, shot just 39.2 percent from the floor. Wake got a big game from center Kyle Visser, as the ACC's second-leading scorer finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Skeen, a freshman, added 13 points and five boards. Tech heads to the Big Apple for its next game as the Hokies travel to New York City to face Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21st. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.