February 8, 2009
Tech rallies from 18 down to topple N.C. State
By Jimmy Robertson
NC State (12-9, 2-6) 49271187
Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-3) 35411591
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 9,847
  • High Points: 24 - A.D. Vassallo
  • High Rebounds: 8 - Jeff Allen

A.D. Vassallo drained four free throws in the final 16.4 seconds of overtime, and Virginia Tech rallied from an 18-point, second-half deficit to knock off N.C. State 91-87 in overtime in an ACC game played Sunday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.

With the victory, the Hokies put an end to their six-game losing streak to the Wolfpack. Tech, which moved to 9-1 in ACC overtime games, snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 15-7 overall on the season, 5-3 in the ACC.

The game marked Tech’s biggest comeback in an ACC game since joining the league in 2004.

“Everyone asks, ‘Do they [the Wolfpack] have your number?’” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “No, but there are certain match-ups that are tougher for us. There are certain match-ups that we have to make decisions on that are tough for us when we have to play them.

“This is life in the ACC. There is no quit in anyone. You have to put your arms around a game and finish it, and that’s what we did today. I thought our resiliency was pretty special.”

“It feels great,” Vassallo, a senior, said of beating N.C. State. “At least now I can say that we’ve beaten everyone since I’ve been here. But it’s not just that. We’re now 5-3 and in third [tied for third] in the ACC. That makes it even better.”

Tech trailed by as many as 18 in the second half, but used its defense in the final 10 minutes to rally to tie the game at 76. The Hokies held the Wolfpack to just one field goal – and 10 total points, all by Ben McCauley – the final 9:51 of the second half and closed regulation with a 21-10 run. Tech tied the game with 17.9 seconds left on a short jumper by Vassallo over N.C. State’s Courtney Fells.

“It was similar to the shot against UVa,” Vassallo said of his clutch shot late against the Cavaliers. “Coach told me to take my time and make a play. He [Fells] gave me my left, so I went to my left and pulled up and made a shot.”

“We knew coming out of that timeout that we were going to go to A.D.,” Greenberg said. “And he delivered once again.”

N.C. State (12-9, 2-6 in the ACC) called a timeout to set up a final play in regulation, but McCauley lost the ball trying to go up for a contested shot in the post and Jeff Allen came up with the ball after a wild scramble. Tech then called timeout with four-tenths of a second left, but turned the ball over and that sent the game into overtime.

In overtime, Vassallo and Terrell Bell hit baskets on back-to-back possessions to enable Tech to open a four-point lead and the Hokies never looked back. Vassallo hit two free throws with 16.4 seconds left to give Tech an 89-84 lead. N.C. State’s Javier Gonzalez cut the lead to two, 89-87, for the Wolfpack with a 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go, but Vassallo hit two more free throws with 8.7 seconds left to give Tech a four-point lead and ultimately the win.

“We didn’t give up and we made plays,” Vassallo said. “I got some good looks, got the ball in some post-ups and took advantage of that. I think Jeff did a good job of rebounding and T-Bell did a great job of defending Fells. Zo [Dorenzo Hudson] hit some shots and that kind of got us going, and we just kept playing defense.”

Vassallo finished with a team-high 24 points – 16 in the second half – and hit 10-of-17 from the floor. The Hokies, as a team, hit 19 of their final 34 attempts from the floor and shot 47.1 percent for the game.

Allen added 21 points and eight boards for the Hokies and Malcolm Delaney finished with 18. J.T. Thompson scored 12 off the bench.

McCauley led all scorers with a game-high 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Wolfpack, who also placed four players in double figures. Fells added 17.

McCauley finished just a point short of his career high.

“I know this, I’m going to that guy’s graduation,” Greenberg joked of McCauley. “He might even get a present from me.”

Tech now gets ready for its next game, which comes on Wednesday night when Georgia Tech comes to Cassell Coliseum. Tip off for the game is slated for 7 p.m.

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

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