BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s Erick Green scored 19 points, but the Hokies turned the ball over on their final possession with a chance to tie or take the lead and ended up falling to in-state rival Virginia 61-59 in an ACC game played Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
With the loss, Tech fell to 15-13 overall, 4-9 in the ACC. Virginia, ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll, avenged an earlier loss to the Hokies this season and moved to 21-6 overall, 8-5 in the league.
Tech grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 47-39, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Erick Green, the last one coming with 14:50 left in the game. But Sammy Zeglinski spearheaded a UVa comeback.
Zeglinski’s 3-pointer with 14:28 left started a 17-2 run for the Cavaliers. The fifth-year senior from Philadelphia scored 10 of those 17 points, and the run ended when Mike Scott converted a three-point play with 4:49 remaining to give the Cavaliers a 56-49 lead.
Tech, though, did climb back in it, cutting the lead to 61-59 when Green made the second of two free-attempts with 26.3 seconds left. The Hokies then fouled UVa’s Akil Mitchell, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 22.5 seconds left.
Tech called its final timeout with 17 seconds to go to set up a final play. But UVa defended Green’s drive to the basket, forcing him to pass, and after a couple of passes, Dorian Finney-Smith ended up turning the ball over with less than 3 seconds remaining.
“We were trying to get Erick off the ball screen, with Jarell Eddie popping up at the top and me and Dorenzo [Hudson] in the corners,” Finney-Smith said. “We wanted to get the 2 [points] or get a skip. Jarell had lost the ball, and I picked it up and tried to go. I thought I saw Dorenzo, but the man [Michael Brogdon] made a good defensive play and took the ball.”
Tech fouled Brogdon with 1.9 seconds remaining. Brogdon missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Hudson’s fullcourt shot came up well short as time expired.
It was a disappointing ending for the Hokies, who hit just one field goal from the floor in the final 13 minutes. Tech also missed three free throws in the final two minutes, including two by Green, who, despite that, scored 17 points in the second half and extended his streak of scoring in double figures to 29 straight games.
“That’s very frustrating,” Green said of the missed free throws. “It starts with me. As the point guard and the leader, I've got to be able to make my free throws and carry us down the stretch. So I take the blame for that.”
Tech still shot a respectable 71.4 percent from the free-throw line and shot 45 percent from the floor. However, the Hokies only shot 35 percent in the second half.
“We did a lot of good things,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “I thought we played with great spacing and pace for a majority of the game. But we had that one stretch where we had too many empty possessions. We lost our focus a couple of possessions defensively. We had a number of unforced turnovers that gave them easy transition baskets.
“We had a chance at the end. We’ve got to make some free throws at the end … We did a lot of good things. It’s [the loss] disappointing.”
UVa shot 59.5 percent from the floor – the best by a Tech opponent this season. Mike Scott paced the Cavaliers with 20 points and nine rebounds, while both Jontel Evans and Zeglinski added 13 a piece.
Tech now hits the road for its next conference game, traveling to Durham, N.C. for a Saturday game with Duke. Tip-off is slated for noon.
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