Rivalry games have a funny way of always coming down to the wire, regardless of the state of the two teams that are playing. And this phenomenon certainly held true Monday night in Virginia Tech’s 70-68 win over fourth ranked Virginia. While most of you probably had your eyes glued to quite possibly the best college basketball game in the past five years in Kansas vs. Oklahoma, Virginia Tech was able to earn the biggest win of the Buzz Williams era. This was Virginia Techs first win in their past eight tries over rival Virginia, and first win in the past four years over a ranked team. This game propelled them Virginia Tech to 10-5 on the season while dropping Virginia to 12-2.
My fellow Virginia Tech writer, Peter Bedrosian, laid out the three things Virginia Tech needed to do if they wanted to pull off the upset. They were able to do two of these three things really well.
Turnovers have been a huge problem all year for the Hokies, who average more turnovers than assists per game on the season. Virginia Tech only turned it over eight times this game, about six turnovers fewer than their season average. On the other side, the Cavaliers turned it over an uncharacteristic, 16 times leading to 26 points off turnovers for the Hokies. This was the most in control I have seen the young guards of the Hokies look which led to a higher number of shots, possessions, and chance to win.
The Hokies always come at you with a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging eight points per game or higher. However, they need one of those five players to step up and get 15 to 20 every night if they want to be dangerous to the class of the ACC. Virginia Tech got contributions from a lot of people, but a big time performance by one player vaulted them into a position to win this game.
Zach Leday, a Junior transfer forward from South Florida, paced the Hokies with 22 points. Leday has been a double double threat this season, but most of them came at the beginning of the year against smaller opponents. Standing only 6 foot 7, Leday has disappeared this season for the most part against bigger and better competition. This was not the case Monday night against the Cavaliers. Although coming up three rebounds short of a double double, this was by far his best game of the year. Not only were the 22 points huge, but he came up with a number of important loose balls, rebounds and hustle plays on the defensive end. Leday had made a grand total of 2 three pointers on the season heading into Monday night’s match up, so his three 3 point field goals in this game were not only unexpected, but huge. Even though he has one of the ugliest shots I have ever seen, Leday’s three point shooting played a huge part in Virginia Tech getting the win.
As for the University of Virginia, the only one who really showed up was London Perrantes. He went 6-7 from three in the second half including five in the first seven minutes of the half. His special second half performance just wasn’t quite enough to overcome the rest of his team’s shortcomings. Malcolm Brogden never could get going, finishing 4-11 from the field. When UVA has Brogden and Perrantes going in the same game they are a very tough team to beat, but Brogden’s struggles allowed Tech just enough room to squeak in for the win.
Of course, a game like this cant end without a little bit of controversy. Perrantes drove into the lane with just a few seconds left on the clock and was able to draw some contact from both Shane Henry and Zach Leday. Henry looked to be straight up, but many UVA fans think that a foul should have been called on the late contact from Leday. It would have been a tough call to make. The final play is all over the internet, so if you haven’t seen it yet, take some time to look at it and decide for yourself.
This was the biggest win in Blacksburg in many years and has a lot of Virginia Tech fans shocked yet excited. It will be interesting to see how this young team reacts after two straight conference wins heading into Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday. I still am not sure if I can believe the Hokies will be able to keep this type of play up for the rest of the season quite yet, but one thing for sure is that Hokie Basketball is on its way back in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech ‘18
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