|Virginia Tech (9-22)||32||21||53|
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Virginia Tech forward Jarell Eddie scored a game-high 16 points, but his game-tying shot attempt with 4 seconds left in the game was blocked, and the Hokies fell to Miami 57-53 in an ACC Tournament first-round game played at the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday.
With the loss, the Hokies closed out the 2013-14 campaign with a 9-22 record. Miami advanced to the next round, where it will play NC State on Thursday. The ’Canes moved to 17-15 overall and beat the Hokies for the first time in three tries this season.
“It was a tough season, a tough way to go out,” said Eddie, who played his final collegiate game. “I wish we could have had several more wins. But I know this team had a lot of fight in them, and I know this program is headed in the right direction.”
Tech lost to an ACC by four points for the third time this season. That turned out to be the theme of this season. As much as the Hokies battled injuries this season, they came close to winning multiple times.
Tech lost 12 games by seven points or less and eight games by five points or less.
“I’m proud of the way the guys fought and competed,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “That’s something those guys have been doing all season long. They could have easily packed it in. We talked about this [the ACC Tournament] is a new season, and you come out and play like it is. It’s a one-game tournament, and they laid it on the line and played hard, competed, played with a lot of effort, a lot of energy, and they left it all out there tonight.”
The Hokies blistered the nets against Miami in the first half to the tune of 54.5 percent. Yet they went ice cold in the second half, making just six shots out of 23 attempts (26.1 percent). However, they had chances to win in the final moments.
Tech grabbed a 52-51 lead on the last of Eddie’s five 3-pointers with 3:26 remaining. But Miami retook a 53-52 lead on Erik Swoope’s basket with 2:42 left.
Eddie’s basket turned out to be the Hokies’ last basket of the game, as they came up empty on their next three possessions. But they had a chance to tie or take the lead after Miami’s Tonye Jekire fouled Joey van Zegeren, sending van Zegeren to the free-throw line with 9.5 seconds to go.
Van Zegeren, though, missed both free-throw attempts, and he fouled Miami’s Rion Brown with 8 seconds remaining to stop the clock. Brown made both free throws to give the ’Canes a 55-52 lead.
“Honestly, I felt confident as soon as the foul was made on me,” said van Zegeren, who entered the game as a 40-percent free-throw shooter. “I’ve been working on my free throws and my rhythm, so I felt confident going to the line. The first free throw came off my hand a little to the right, so I wasn’t happy with that, but I still felt confident. The second free throw hit the back iron. It was a little too hard.”
After Brown’s free throws, Miami elected to foul to prevent the Hokies from hitting a game-tying 3-pointer. The ’Canes fouled Devin Wilson with 5.7 seconds remaining, and Wilson made the first free throw to cut the lead to 55-53 before the Hokies called a timeout.
Johnson decided to have Wilson missed the second one, drawing up a play that the Hokies used successfully last year against NC State. Wilson missed it, and Eddie actually got the rebound.
With three Miami defenders around him, Eddie went up for a layup, but Swoope blocked the shot. Swoope came down with the rebound, and Tech fouled him with 2.5 seconds to go. He made both free throws to account for the final margin.
“I just saw a lot of guys around me,” Eddie said. “I was trying to get some contact, maybe go to the free-throw line and win the game. But it just didn’t happen that way. It was a bang-bang play.”
Eddie, who finished his career with 1,182 points, made 5 of 11 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed three rebounds and played all 40 minutes.
Wilson scored nine points and Ben Emelogu added eight. Tech held Miami to just 38.6 percent shooting from the floor, and the Hokies only committed three turnovers in the game. But Tech made just 9 of 17 from the free-throw line and got out-rebounded 36-24. Plus, Miami made the key plays down the stretch to pull out the victory and end Tech’s season.
“We’ve seen it in close games down the stretch,” Johnson said. “We had some open looks that we thought we could have knocked down, had some free throws. But give Miami credit. They made those plays, and we didn’t.
“It may be a little bit of fatigue set in for us with those plays, but those are things that our young ballclub will learn from, and we’ll continue to move forward with them.”
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