January 21, 2009
Hokies stun top-ranked Wake Forest 78-71
By Jimmy Robertson

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Virginia Tech’s big three of Malcolm Delaney, A.D. Vassallo and Jeff Allen combined for 53 points and the Hokies got solid contributions from their role players to pull off a stunning 78-71 victory over No. 1 Wake Forest in an ACC game played in front of 14,110 fans at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night.

The victory marked Tech’s first over a No. 1-ranked team since 2007 when the Hokies downed North Carolina 94-88 at Cassell Coliseum. It also marked the program’s third ever victory over a No. 1-ranked team, joining the 69-56 win over Memphis in 1983 at Cassell.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “I thought they really bought into how we needed to play to have a chance to win. I thought we showed toughness, and we got great contributions from Hank Thorns, Cheick Diakite, Dorenzo Hudson and J.T. Thompson.

“It’s a great win for our program. It just shows you what the ACC is all about. It’s a perfect example of how good this league is and there are no easy outs. You have to play at a really, really high level every night to have a chance, and I thought we did that.”

Tech, which won its fourth straight game and for the eighth time in the past nine games, moved to 13-5 overall on the season, 3-1 in the ACC. Wake lost for the first time this season, falling to 16-1 overall, 3-1 in the league.

The Demon Deacons – the last team in the nation to lose a game – had moved to No. 1 in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll on Monday, but struggled from the outset. Wake got into early foul trouble and led just one time in the game when L.D. Williams hit a lay-up with 15:56 to go in the first half to give the Demon Deacons an 8-7 lead. A jumper by Delaney with 12:53 left in the first half enabled the Hokies to retake the lead (10-8) and they never trailed again, leading the final 32:53 of the game.

“We’re a team that’s going to compete,” point guard Hank Thorns said. “We’re here to win just like everyone else and we showed that tonight. We’ve had a couple of heartbreakers and we knew we had to get one of these. On the ride over here, everyone was confident. Everyone in this locker room was confident. We knew what we were capable of doing.”

A combination of terrific defense and hot shooting enabled the Hokies to lead by as many as 16 in the first half, by as many as 15 in the second half and by 13 with 6:28 to play after Allen buried a 3-pointer to give Tech a 67-54 lead.

That turned out to be Tech’s last basket of the game. The Demon Deacons scrambled back into it, going on a 17-2 run over the next 4:36 and cutting the lead to 71-69 on a 3-pointer by star guard Jeff Teague with 1:52 left.

But 10 seconds later, Delaney hit two free throws to give the Hokies a four-point bulge. Tech cobbled together enough free throws down the stretch to hold off Wake, hitting 10-of-19 from the stripe in the final 2:50. Wake got no closer than four points after Delaney’s free throws, hitting just one of its final seven shots from the floor.

“We came through at the end,” Vassallo said. “We got the stops and we got the rebounds we had to get. That’s something we hadn’t been doing at the end of games earlier in the year. We came together as a team and worked hard this week in practice. We knew this was a game we had to get to get our NCAA Tournament hopes up. We got it and now we need to build on it.”

For the game, Tech shot an even 50 percent from the floor against Wake, which came into the game ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (36.2). Delaney led the way for Tech with 21 points, hitting 6-of-14 from the floor and 8-of-12 from the free-throw line.

Vassallo added 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting and hit 4-of-6 from the stripe. Allen also scored 16 points, hitting 6-of-10 from the floor.

Tech also got great mileage from its role players. Diakite scored eight points (2-of-2 from the floor and 4-of-6 from the line) and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes, Thompson scored six points (3-of-3 from the floor) and Thorns scored four points and dished out four assists in 21 minutes – and did not commit a turnover.

Teague, who was second in the ACC in scoring at 21.4 points per game, led the Demon Deacons with 23 points. He hit 10-of-16 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, but he also turned the ball over five times – part of a 16-turnover night for Wake. James Johnson added 18 and Williams finished with 12.

For the game, Wake shot 43.1 percent from the floor. It came into the game shooting 51.1 from the floor for the season – ranking second in the nation in that category as well.

“We buckled down and held our ground on defense,” Delaney said. “They got some buckets in spurts, but overall, we played a good defensive game. Coach told us that if we kept them in the 70s [points], we’d be in the game. But if we let it get in the 90s, we were going to lose. So we did a good job of keeping it in the 70s.”

Tech puts its four-game winning streak on the line on Sunday when the Hokies travel to Miami for another ACC game. Tip-off for the game with the ’Canes is slated for 5:30 p.m.

“Now our challenge is not to drink the Kool-Aid,” Greenberg said. “Enjoy this, but the second we get to Blacksburg, it’s over with because in this league, it can be very fleeting.

“We’re getting better. But I’m also realistic enough to know that every single team in this league is a team that can play at the very highest level. It’s brutal each and every night.”

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

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