December 20, 2014
Second-half rally helps Tech knock off The Citadel
By Jimmy Robertson
The Citadel (4-6) 273461
Virginia Tech (6-4) 224264
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 3,454
  • High Points: 16 - Adam Smith
  • High Rebounds: 7 - Ahmed Hill

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech guard Adam Smith scored 16 points to help the Hokies rally from a halftime deficit to defeat The Citadel 64-61 in a non-conference game played Saturday at Cassell Coliseum.

The win moved the Hokies to 6-4 overall on the season. Five of Tech’s six wins have been by 10 points or more – until Saturday, when the Hokies won a close game for the first time this season. Three of Tech’s four losses have been by three points or less.

“We have to play with confidence,” Williams said. “It’s like, when we go on that run or other runs throughout the season, we’re like, ‘We’re winning. Now what are we going to do?’ We’re thankful that we won. We’ve lost three games just like this.

“I think the attitude would be completely different if we had won the three prior games just like this. We’ve got to continue to work and play with a high level of energy and a high level of confidence [after getting the lead].”

Smith scored 14 of his 16 in the second half, helping the Hokies rally from a 27-22 halftime deficit.

The Hokies made the plays that they needed to make down the stretch. They made 4 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 37 seconds – and eight of their final 10 attempts – and defensively forced The Citadel into missing five of its final six shots of the game. Tech came into the game ranked 342nd nationally in free-throw percentage (out of 345 teams) and yet made 14 of 19 in the second half.

With the game tied at 58, Tech’s Devin Wilson made a basket with 1:35 remaining to give the Hokies the lead for good. Five straight Tech points – three coming from the free-throw line – helped it build a 63-58 lead with 17.9 seconds to go,

But The Citadel (4-6) cut the lead to 63-61 on a 3-pointer by C.J. Bray with 7.7 seconds left. The Hokies’ Justin Bibbs then made one of two free throws with six seconds left to give them a 64-61 lead.

With a foul to give, Tech committed one near halfcourt with five seconds to play. With no timeouts left, The Citadel ran a side out-of-bounds play and got the ball to Ashton Moore, but Bibbs got a piece of the 3-point attempt and the shot fell short as time expired.

“I saw No. 12 [Moore], and I was like, ‘He cannot get this shot off,’” Bibbs said. “I just ran to him and jumped. I knew the seconds were counting down, and he was going to put it up.”

Moore gave the Hokies fits, scoring a game-high 27 points. He only hit 8 of 22 from the floor for the Bulldogs, but he made 7 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Bulldogs hit 13 3-pointers for the game and shot better from beyond the arc (38.2 percent; 13 of 34) than from inside of it (28.5 percent; 8 of 28).

“A lot of his 3’s came off bad ball screen coverage,” Williams said. “He was able step behind the ball screen and shoot it. He made seven, and I would say, for sure, that was three or four of those.

“I think our first-shot field-goal percentage is pretty good … I think they get what we’re trying to do defensively for the most part. Where we need to continue to grow is our ball-screen coverage, and when rotation is forced, can we take up space and finish with a rebound? Today, they [The Citadel] only finished with seven second-chance points. You can live with that number. “

Bibbs’ play capped a game in which Tech rallied behind Smith, who scored Tech’s first eight points of the second half in a span of less than 90 seconds after the Hokies went the final 5:10 of the first half without scoring. Behind him, Tech opened the second half with a 20-6 run, taking a 42-33 lead on a basket by Jalen Hudson with 11:37 left. Smith scored 10 points in the run.

The Bulldogs, though, answered with a 13-2 run to get back in the game. Moore hit three 3-pointers in the run, including one with 8:46 left that capped the run and put The Citadel up 46-44.

Wilson and Joey van Zegeren each scored 10 for the Hokies, who shot 41.8 percent from the floor (23 of 55).

The Hokies return to the court in a little more than 48 hours, as they play host to in-state foe VMI. Tipoff for the game is slated for 7 p.m.

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