BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s Marshall Wood tied a career high with 14 points, but the Hokies let an 11-point, second-half lead slip away in a 55-52 loss to UNCG on Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 7-5 and lost to the Spartans for the first time in 10 tries. UNCG (7-7) beat an ACC team for the second time in the program’s history.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to beat anybody scoring 52 points,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “We shot 56 percent from the free-throw line. We left a lot of points out there, and we turned the ball over 15 times. But give UNCG a lot of credit. They came in and were ready to play. They went inside on us. Their big guys had a big game and scored when they needed to score down the stretch.”
Tech led 43-32 after two free throws by Ben Emelogu with 10:06 left in the game. But UNCG went on an 18-6 run over the next 9:23, with Kyle Cain scoring nine of his game-high 18 points in that span. The run ended with Kayel Locke’s basket with 1:23 left that gave the Spartans a 50-49 lead – their first lead since the 19:47 mark of the second half.
Wood missed a 3-pointer with 1:07 left, and Locke went to work again for the Spartans, scoring on a layup with 34 seconds remaining to give UNCG a 52-49 lead.
The Hokies got a free throw from Wood with 17 seconds left that sliced the UNCG lead to 52-50, and they then fouled the Spartans’ Drew Parker, who made the second of two free throws that gave UNCG a 53-50 lead.
Tech had a chance to tie the game with 10.1 seconds left. Devin Wilson made a layup and was fouled, but he missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 53.
RJ White hit two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to give the Spartans a 55-52 lead. Wood then missed a 3-pointer with three seconds left that would have tied the game.
“I thought it was good,” Wood said. “I thought it was going in, but it came up short.
“It’s very disappointing. We came into the game expecting to win, no question. We just let it slip away.”
The Hokies played without starting guard Adam Smith, who sat out the game after re-injuring his calf against VCU. Smith is averaging 13.1 points per game. Also, C.J. Barksdale, nursing an ankle injury, only played six minutes.
“I think our depth is catching up with us,” Johnson said. “Down the stretch, we got tired and weren’t able to get the stops. We were short on some shots. But that can’t be an excuse. We’ve got to play better.
“We’ve got to win it. We’ve got to find a way to close it out. We’ve got to make the plays and get the stops. We’ve got to get the offensive execution. We’ve got to make free throws. We’ve got to finish the game.”
Cain and Locke, UNCG’s post players, combined for 33 points, with Locke scoring six of his 15 points in the final two minutes. Cain hit 8 of 14 from the floor and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who battled the bigger Hokies even on the boards (34 each). Locke made 4 of 9, but hit 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. The two combined to hit 12 of 23 from the floor on a day when UNCG shot just 36.5 percent (19 of 52).
The Hokies got 11 points each from Emelogu and Joey van Zegeren.
Tech’s leading scorer, Jarell Eddie, made just 1 of 12 from the floor and scored four points. He had been averaging a little more than 18 per game and had scored in double figures in every game this season. He scored 28 points in the Hokies’ victory over UNGC last season.
The Hokies continue nonconference action next Tuesday afternoon when they face Maryland-Eastern Shore. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.
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