BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech freshman Ben Emelogu scored a game-high 22 points, and Adam Smith made some key plays down the stretch to help the Hokies rally past West Virginia 87-82 in a nonconference game Tuesday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies, coming off a loss to USC Upstate in the season opener, moved to 1-1 on the season and avenged last season’s 68-67 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown. Tech also beat the Mountaineers for the fourth time in the past six meetings between the two programs.
“I think this is a sign,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “We’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got some young guys who can do some things, and we’ve got to continue to hang in there. It’s going to be up and down for them, but at least we’ve got multiple guys. If one guy is down, we’ve got some guys who maybe can step up. Tonight, we were able to get those three young guys [Emelogu, Devin Wilson and Smith] in double figures, and that was encouraging.”
Smith scored 19 points for the Hokies who rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half. He scored seven of Tech’s last nine points in the game – all in the final 1:46.
His basket with 1:46 left in the game gave Tech an 80-77 lead. West Virginia cut the lead to 80-79 on a bucket by Juwan Staten with 44 seconds left.
Smith then made one of the biggest plays of the game. He drove to the basket, put up a shot and made it, getting fouled in the process. He made the free throw, and the three-point play gave the Hokies an 83-79 lead with 33.2 seconds remaining.
West Virginia’s Remi Dibo then hit a 3-pointer with 23.7 seconds left to cut the lead to 83-82, but Smith answered again, hitting two free throws to push the lead to 85-82 with 16.2 seconds remaining.
West Virginia (1-1) had a chance to tie the game, but Nathan Adrian’s 3-pointer was short, and Tech freshman Devin Wilson got the rebound. Wilson made two free throws with 5 seconds left to seal the game for Virginia Tech.
Smith, a transfer from UNC Wilmington who sat out last season, hit 7 of 12 from the floor for the Hokies, who shot 45.6 percent from the floor (26 of 57), including 60.9 percent in the second half (14 of 23).
“It feels good,” Smith said. “This is what I’ve been working toward for a year. My opportunity came, and I just seized the moment.”
Emelogu scored 13 of his 22 in the first half, rallying the Hokies from that 17-point deficit. Tech went on a 12-1 run that ended with Emelogu’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 41-36 at halftime. The Hokies then scored the first eight points of the second half, using that 20-1 run spanning both halves to get back into the game.
“That was a big momentum builder before the half,” Emelogu said of his 3-pointer before halftime. “We were down eight before the shot and we were down five at halftime. We knew we were breaking them slowly. We came back and got more stops and broke them.”
Wilson finished with 16 points for the Hokies, making 4 of 7 from the floor and all eight of his free-throw attempts. Jarell Eddie had 10 points – all in the second half.
Dibo led West Virginia with 17 points, while Eron Harris added 16 for the cold-shooting Mountaineers. West Virginia shot just 35.7 percent from the floor (25 of 70).
The Hokies continue nonconference action this Friday night when they take on Western Carolina. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.
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