It wasn’t the prettiest game or the best matchup of the year, but Virginia and Virginia Tech provided one of college basketball’s most entertaining games of the regular season.
Make no mistake, Sunday night’s game was still very much a Virginia game—the Cavaliers failed to put up 80 even with 10 extra minutes—and the Hokies needed three last-second plays to go their way, but Virginia Tech kept its tournament hopes alive and upset the Hoos in Blacksburg. The rivalry game was the second meeting of the season for the two teams; Virginia mollywhopped the Hokies by 23 on Feb. 1 before losing to Syracuse by four and downing No. 4 Louisville by 16. It’s been a weird season.
Head coach Tony Bennett has helped to create and maintain a defensive powerhouse at Virginia, and nothing’s changed this year—the Cavaliers rank first in the nation in scoring defense, holding teams to 55.1 points per game. This is a good thing, because even before they dismissed Austin Nichols, the Hoos were going to have some offensive deficiencies. (Such things tend to happen when you lose Malcolm Brogdon and only have London Perrantes doing all the heavy lifting.)
In the first half of Sunday’s clash, Virginia chugged along nicely, scoring 37 points and entering the break with a 14-point lead. But Virginia Tech reserves Zach LeDay and Seth Allen stepped up in the second half, with LeDay scoring all of his 11 points in the period and Allen pouring in seven of his total 20 points. The Hokies put together a 20-9 run in the opening nine minutes to close the gap to one, but they wouldn’t tie the game until Ahmed Hill converted a layup with 3:50 left in regulation.
After a Perrantes layup put Virginia up by two with 27 seconds remaining and Ty Jerome missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Hokies had a final shot to tie the game and send it to overtime; luckily for Buzz Williams, Ty Outlaw was on clean-up duty.
The first overtime was a low-scoring affair, as each team managed just five points and combined to shoot 3-of-11 from the field; even still, the ending made the first four minutes worth it. After splitting a pair of free throws, Perrantes converted a layup with 1:03 left to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead. The lead lasted just 12 seconds before Justin Bibbs knotted the score at 68.
With 26 seconds remaining and the Hokies defense extended, Perrantes—the only Virginia player really worth a damn on offense, if you haven’t figured it out—drove into the lane, lofting a left-handed layup high off the top corner. The ball dinged off the front of the rim, bounced its way around to the back iron, and... stopped.
The cruelty of that fluke gave way to a second overtime. More points were scored this time around, but the only two that mattered came off the hands of Allen, who used a beautiful jump-stop and pump-fake to get his man off the floor and clear space for an easy lefty floater a foot outside the restricted circle.
Perrantes missed the following half-court heave wide right, giving the Hokies the 80-78 upset victory and proving once again that gravity is undefeated.