BLACKSBURG – Devin Wilson scored 12 points and dished out nine assists, and C.J. Barksdale came off the bench to score 12, as Virginia Tech snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 52-45 victory over Miami at Cassell Coliseum on Saturday night.
The Hokies moved to 9-15 overall on the season, 2-10 in ACC play, and they won for the first time in 2014. Tech’s last victory came on Dec. 31 against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“It feels good,” Tech coach James Johnson said of the win. “But I feel better for those guys [his players]. They come in and put in a lot of time and a lot of work. They compete and play hard. We’ve been so close in so many games, and we haven’t been able to pull them out. For us to be able to make plays down the stretch and pull it out … I feel good for them.”
“It feels great,” Wilson said after the game. “You see everyone in here [in the locker room] smiling and happy. Everyone is chest bumping and high-fiving. That’s what you want to do after games.”
Tech grabbed the lead early in the game and used a 9-0 run in the first nine minutes to gain a 15-5 cushion. Neither team, though, shot well from the floor, as Miami made just five baskets in the first half, and the Hokies only made eight and took a 19-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, the Hokies strung together a few more baskets and led by as many as nine points. The Hokies led by seven after Wilson’s basket with 2:02 left gave them a 43-36 edge. Miami cut the lead to 49-45 on a layup by Davon Reed with 35 seconds remaining. But Wilson made the first of two free throws with 34 seconds left to give Tech a 50-45 lead, and after Reed missed a 3-pointer, Wilson made two free throws with 20 seconds left to push Tech’s lead to 52-45.
Miami’s Rion Brown missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, and Tech’s Joey van Zegeren grabbed the rebound. Miami elected not to foul, and the Hokies ran out the clock – and started celebrating.
“Our hard work is finally paying off,” Tech’s Jarell Eddie said. “We’ve been through a lot this season, and we’ve continued to work hard. We’ve continued to believe. It just paid off tonight. We were able to get a win.
“We knew it was coming. We knew it was getting closer and closer every game. We were playing better defense. We were rebounding better. We were playing better basketball, but we were continuing to lose. But we continued to believe, and it paid off today.”
It marked a great end to a strange week for Tech. The university closed both Thursday and Friday because of a snowstorm that dumped nearly two feet of snow in the area, and the Hokies were unable to practice, as per university policy. Several of the players got together for a players-only practice on Thursday and Friday, and then Johnson got the team together for a short practice Saturday morning.
“I thought the guys did a great job with it,” Johnson said. “They came over at 8 this morning and we watched film and had a little bit of a walkthrough. Then about 1, we got in the arena and did our normal shoot-around. I thought it [the time off] helped us rest and get our legs and get healthy a little bit. If they had come to practice, I’d have probably practiced them too long anyway. So it worked out.”
Wilson scored all 12 of his points in the final 3:37. He hit 8 of 11 from the free-throw line in that span, and as a team, the Hokies knocked down 10 of 16 in the final 2:52.
Barksdale, who had missed the previous four games with a groin injury, made 5 of 9 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and he also grabbed seven rebounds.
Miami (12-13, 3-9 ACC) suffered through a horrid shooting performance against the Hokies’ 2-3 zone. The ’Canes made just 15 of 58 from the floor (25.9 percent) and 7 of 34 from beyond the 3-point arc. They also struggled from the free-throw line, connecting on just 8 of 17.
Garrius Adams led the ’Canes with 13 points, while Brown finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Brown, though, made just 4 of 16 from the floor.
“I think it’s good for the guys to see that their hard work is paying off,” Johnson said. “That’s why I feel so good for the guys, so that they can see that. They’ve never quit. They’ve never quit on me and they’ve never quit on themselves. They’ve come in and worked hard every day. They listen. They’re coachable.
“For them to come out and pull this win out … we could have gone in the tank after that Pittsburgh game. We were up four with 30 seconds to go and we lost the game in double overtime with a bunch of young guys. The team could easily crack and go on a downhill spiral. For this team to come back and find a way to win says a lot of them.”
The Hokies now gear up for in-state rival Virginia, which visits Cassell Coliseum next Tuesday night. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m.
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