January 27, 2015
Behind hot shooting from Smith and Mueller, Hokies notch first ACC win of season
By Jimmy Robertson
Pittsburgh (13-8, 3-5) 2438567
Virginia Tech (9-11, 1-6) 2933870
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 5,206
  • High Points: 26 - Adam Smith
  • High Rebounds: 8 - Ahmed Hill

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech guard Adam Smith drained a 3-pointer with four seconds left to lift the Hokies to a 70-67 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers in ACC action on Tuesday night.

With the win, the Hokies moved to 9-11 overall, 1-6 in ACC play, and snapped a seven-game losing streak. They also ended a five-game losing skid to the Panthers.

Smith tied a season high with 26 points, hitting 9 of 17 from the field and tying a career high with six 3-pointers. Behind his barrage, and the career evening from Malik Müller, the Hokies won for just the second time in seven attempts in games decided by three points or less.

Despite playing their fourth straight game without leading scorer Justin Bibbs (concussion), they managed to give first-year head coach Buzz Williams his first ACC win. After the game, the players and Williams’ staff presented him with the game ball.

“I think sometimes people think there is some sort of magic pill or some sort of trick, and maybe there is and maybe I’m too immature to figure it out, but I believe in what we do, I believe in how we do it, and more importantly, I believe in why we do it,” Williams said. “None of those things are based on the results. I think the things that we do and how we go about our daily itinerary on and off the floor are the right things. It speaks to the character of those kids in uniform, and to the people who raised them, that they keep showing up every day.”

“It just feels so good to get our first ACC win, our first win of 2015,” Smith said. “It feels good to do it for Coach Buzz [Williams] and give him his first ACC win. It was a team win. When I wasn’t hitting, Malik [Müller] was hitting, Devin [Wilson] was going downhill and we played huge on defense, got some clutch stops. It was just a great team win.”

In overtime, the Panthers (13-8, 3-5 ACC), who lost their third straight, tied the game at 67 on Chris Jones' put-back with 1:08 to play. Tech called a timeout with 47 seconds left, and Müller missed a lay-up inside with 30 seconds to go. But the rebound went out of bounds off a Pittsburgh player, giving the Hokies another chance.

They held the ball before running a play that freed Smith for a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

“It was the same shot I took against Virginia,” Smith said. “I think I hit it twice at the end of regulation. So I felt comfortable knowing that I could hit that particular shot. We drew it up so that I would get it in the exact same spot. It was perfect.”

“Adam’s got the heart of a lion, and he’s not scared,” Williams said. “That’s not to say anybody on our team is scared. We proved that, too.

“But to be in those positions at his size [6-foot-1, 170 pounds], you have to have a little something extra burning in you – and I think he does. To be able to have shot the shot that he shot against Virginia, and then 52 hours later, to be able to shoot the shot to put it into overtime, and then shoot the shot to win it, your heart has to pump a lot of blood.”

Pittsburgh called a timeout after Smith’s 3-pointer at the end of overtime and got a good look on its final possession, but James Robinson's 3-pointer hit the front of the rim and bounced away as time expired.

The Hokies rallied from a 60-53 deficit a little more than two minutes left in regulation. A Robinson jumper with 19 seconds to go gave the Panthers a 62-59 lead, but Smith hit a long 3-pointer with two seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Müller, a redshirt freshman from Germany, scored a career-high 22 points for the Hokies, who shot just 38.3 percent from the floor, but tied a season high with 12 3-pointers, of which Müller hit four.

“I think it was a mindset change,” Müller said. “I have to be more aggressive. We’re missing Bibbs, and we’re missing Joey [van Zegeren]. So the weight has to be carried by someone else. I was mentally free, and I was done losing. I was going to give my team everything I had. I think I did that. Everybody threw their heart out there on the floor [Tuesday night].”

Ahmed Hill scored 10 points and grabbed for the Hokies and hit a 3-pointer, and Devin Wilson dished out seven assists and committed just one turnover in 41 minutes.

Jamel Artis paced the Panthers with 17 points, while Cameron Wright added 14 and Robinson finished with 12.

The Hokies return to action on Saturday when they take on Wake Forest in an ACC game in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m.

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