March 25, 2008
Tech advances to quarterfinals of NIT with win over UAB
By Jimmy Robertson
UAB (23-11, 12-4 CUSA) 212849
Virginia Tech (21-13, 9-7 ACC) 363975
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 9,757
  • High Points: 18 - A.D. Vassallo
  • High Rebounds: 7 - JT Thompson

Continuing its string of outstanding performances the past six weeks, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team canned its first seven shots, played stingy defense, and went on to roll past the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers 75-49 in a second round NIT game played Monday night at Cassell Coliseum.

With the win, Tech moved 21-13 overall on the season and won for the seventh time in the past nine games. The Hokies, who also moved to 10-0 in NIT home games, advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT for the fifth time in the program's history.

"I told them before the game that we're a team without gimmicks," Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. "We are who we are. We're a team that checks you and rebounds and tries to get out and run and get easy baskets. We're not very tricky. That's who we are. As long as we're poised and confident, that's all I want us to be.

"You have to play well at this level at this time of the season. You can't have a bad game or you're going home. I like the way we're playing. I think we're playing with a lot of confidence, which I want them to play with. I think we're playing with a lot of trust. Our roles are well-defined and I think we're competing at a pretty high level. We're getting contributions from a lot of different guys."

Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo led off the game with back-to-back 3-pointers, and that started the Hokies' opening onslaught. In addition to hitting its first seven shots, Tech hit eight of its first nine in jumping out to a 21-9 lead.

UAB cut that lead to five, 22-17, on a basket by Channing Toney with 8:56 left in the first half. But the Hokies closed the half with a 14-4 run to take a 36-21 lead in the locker and they never looked back.

The second half was all Tech, as the Hokies gradually built a 28-point lead. They shot 47.4 percent for the game, but 48.1 percent in the final 20 minutes, and they drained nine 3-pointers for the game.

"We're not hesitating to shoot," Tech guard Malcolm Delaney said. "We had guys who got hot at different times in the game. Everyone on the team got hot at some point and everyone was hitting baskets."

"We've got some guys seeing very big baskets right now," Greenberg said. "We're playing with great energy and getting contributions from a lot of different guys. That makes it fun."

Vassallo, who spent a chunk of the game on the bench in foul trouble, still managed to pace Tech with 18 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, and he dished out four assists. Delaney scored 17 points and hit three 3-pointers, and he, too, dished out four assists. Washington added 16 points and three assists as Tech finished with 16 assists compared to only 10 turnovers.

Washington spearheaded Tech's defensive effort by putting the clamps on UAB's Robert Vaden, who came into the game averaging better than 21 points per game. But Vaden hit just 3-of-17 from the floor - including 1-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc - and finished with only nine points. It marked just the second time this season he's been under double figures and he came into the game ranked second in the nation in 3-pointers made (141) and 3-pointers per game (4.4).

"My main focus every game is to play great defense and try to stop their main scorer," Washington said. "It happened tonight that we played great team defense. The guards helped out. It was a great effort by everyone to slow him down."

As a team, UAB (23-11) came into the game having hit 251 3-pointers. But the Blazers managed just three against the Hokies and only shot 36.2 percent from the floor. Reggie Huffman led the Blazers with 10 points and 10 boards.

Tech now gears up for a quick turnaround for its quarterfinal game. The Hokies will take on Ole Miss, a winner over Nebraska on Tuesday night, on Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN2.

For updates on Virginia Tech men's basketball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MBBall).

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