CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Kerry Blackshear Jr. turned a forgettable night into a most memorable one, and he and his Virginia Tech teammates likely kept No. 2 Virginia from ascending to No. 1 for the first time since 1983 with a 61-60 overtime victory on Saturday night.
Blackshear scored on a putback with 5.8 seconds left, just his third basket of the game, to give the Hokies the upset, ending the Cavaliers’ 16-game home winning streak and likelihood of replacing Villanova atop the Top 25 when it is released on Monday.
“It wasn’t really a motivation,” Blackshear said. “It was more that we know they’re a good team and we have to be us this time”
The Hokies failed to do that in losing 78-52 to Virginia at Cassell Coliseum on Jan. 3, but exacted their revenge by closing off the middle to the Cavaliers and forcing them to try to win from outside. Virginia did hit 11 3-pointers, but needed 38 attempts (28.9 percent) to do it.
Hokies coach Buzz Williams said he, and Blackshear, will likely always remember the dramatic finish. The player wasn’t so sure.
“I will remember that I missed every shot before that more than (the finish),” he said after missing all six of his 3-point attempts and not scoring until just 3:53 remained in regulation. “I enjoyed the energy my teammates gave me the whole game. That was big for me.”
Blackshear rebounded a missed layup by Justin Robinson and banked it in as he was being fouled. He missed the free throw, but Ty Jerome’s 28-foot attempt at the other end missed badly and the Hokies (18-7, 7-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a marquee victory.
Revenge was sweet, freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker said.
“We were hungry for a win, especially after what they did coming to Blacksburg,” he said.
Robinson led the Hokies with 20 points and seven assists, and Alexander-Walker had 12 points, including a 3-pointer — his fourth of the game and the 11th for Virginia Tech in 289 attempts — to pull the Hokies within 60-59 with 20.7 seconds left.
Devon Hall had 16 points for Virginia (23-2, 12-1), but the 93.3 percent free throw shooter missed twice from the line in the final 31 seconds. De’Andre Hunter added 14 points and Kyle Guy 13 for the Cavaliers, who shot just 34.4 percent, making 21 of 61 shots.
“We almost stole that game,” coach Tony Bennett said, “but that’s what it would have been, stealing that game. They outplayed us.”
The Cavaliers seemed a likely new No. 1 after No. 1 Villanova lost this week to St. John’s , but picked a bad night to having shooting woes. Scoring leader Kyle Guy finished 3 for 14 from beyond the arc, and Jerome was 1 for 10. He did, however, scored twice in the final minute of regulation, on a drive and then a jumper from the right elbow, to rescue the Cavaliers from a 49-45 deficit and force the overtime.
The Hokies shot 57 percent overall (12-21) and 57 percent from 3-point range (8-14) in the first half, at one point reeling off 17 straight points to open a 22-13 lead. Virginia closed the margin to 30-26 on Guy’s 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, but Alexander-Walker hit a 3-point at the halftime buzzer. It was the third shot clock- or buzzer-beating 3 for the Hokies in the half, and gave them a 33-26 lead.
CLOSING IT OFF
Virginia Tech spent practices leading up to the game working almost entirely on closing off the middle and half-court defense, coach Buzz Williams said, and the strategy worked. The Hokies outscored Virginia in the paint 20-14 and Virginia was off target from downtown.
“If they were going to jam the lane, that much, you do have to knock down some of those shots,” Bennett said.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies are a very dangerous team when they are making shots, and that’s pretty often. They are third nationally in field goal percentage (.517) and have five players averaging in double figures, but with Robinson getting really assertive in recent weeks and surpassing his career high three times, some of their other scorers have all but disappeared. A more consistent production from Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill would take some pressure off Robinson, but Hill, their No. 3 scorer (13.3) played just 8 minutes against Virginia.
Virginia: The Cavaliers faced a halftime deficit in their last game, but that was on the road at Florida State. It has been incredibly unusual for them to trail at home — witness their 16-game home winning streak dating to last season — and Virginia Tech made it difficult after halftime with stout defense of its own.
The Hokies go on the road to play their first of two games against No. 9 Duke on Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers go on the road to face No. 25 Miami on Tuesday night.
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