BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech’s cold first-half shooting turned out to be its undoing, as the Hokies fell to the Baylor Bears 84-66 in a National Invitation Tournament second-round game played Saturday morning at Cassell Coliseum.
With the loss, Virginia Tech closed out its season with a 19-15 record. The Hokies lost for just the second time in an NIT game played at Cassell Coliseum (now 11-2 all time). Baylor advanced to the quarterfinals to play Auburn on Tuesday night in Auburn, Ala. The Bears, who have won five of their past six games, including three in the Big 12 tournament and two in the NIT, moved to 22-14 overall on the season.
The Bears never trailed, jumping out to a 22-5 lead in the first 12 minutes of the game in part because the Hokies made just one of their first 17 attempts from the floor against the Bears’ 2-3 zone. Baylor, which shot 67 percent in the first 20 minutes, got 12 points from 7-foot center Josh Lomers and led by 20 at the break. Lomers came into the game having scored in double figures just twice all season.
In the second half, Baylor led by as many as 28. An 18-3 run, capped by two A.D. Vassallo free throws, got the Hokies to within 65-52, and after a dunk by Baylor’s Kevin Rogers made the score 67-52, Malcolm Delaney hit a 3-pointer cut the lead to 12 with 4:57 remaining.
But Curtis Jerrells hit two free throws and Henry Dugat drained a 3-pointer from the corner on back-to-back Baylor possessions to push the lead to 17, and the Bears weren’t threatened again.
“Our inability to make a shot early really affected our ability to defend,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “We just stopped checking people. The basket got big for them and they just physically overpowered us up front. We have to get stops to be successful, so that’s disappointing.
“We had a good year, not a great year. We’ve got to get better. Coaches and players – everyone.”
Rogers and Jerrells paced six Baylor players in double figures with 16 points each. The two seniors combined to hit 11-of-17 from the floor. The Bears shot 61.7 percent for the game as a team, the best against the Hokies this season. They also hit 10-of-21 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I think their zone slowed us down a lot. We couldn’t get out in transition and get some easy baskets like we usually do and get the momentum on our side,” Delaney said. “That led to our defense. We just couldn’t get stops.”
Delaney led the Hokies with 14 points and 10 assists – tying his career high – and Vassallo, who moved into the top five on Tech’s all-time scoring list with a career-high 33 points in the Hokies’ first-round win over Duquesne, finished with 12. But the two of them combined to go 8-for-34 from the floor.
Tech shot just 32.4 – its second-worst performance of the season.
“I’ll be honest with you, I thought we had great looks,” Vassallo said. “I shot over the top of their guards and I was able to shoot clean shots. The ball just was not going in. We had some good looks inside. Jeff [Allen], the ball just rolled out. Malcolm had some 3’s that he rarely misses. It was just one of those days. And every time they took a shot, it seemed to go in and that just demoralized us.”
Vassallo, a senior from Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, closed out his career with 1,822 points.
“I’ve got to move on now,” he said. “I’ve got other things to look forward to now. I’ve got to finish school. That’s important to me. I’ve got to finish and try to graduate and get my diploma. I’ve got workouts.
“But it [the Baylor loss] hurts. I really wanted to leave Tech winning a championship and making my mark. But that couldn’t happen.”
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