Hok­ies squan­der dou­ble-digit leads

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY GENE MARRANO

blacksburg, va. — Vir­ginia Tech squan­dered sev­eral dou­ble digit leads, and a scrappy Wake For­est squad bat­tled back to beat the Hok­ies, 89-84, on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Bryant Craw­ford (Gonzaga) led the De­mon Dea­cons (18-12, 9-9 ACC) with 26 points, and Austin Ari­ans added 15. Five play­ers scored in dou­ble fig­ures for Wake For­est.

“I thought we got con­tri­bu­tions from a lot of dif­fer­ent guys,” Wake For­est Coach Danny Man­ning said.

On se­nior day, se­nior Zach LeDay scored 24 points with 10 re­bounds for Vir­ginia Tech (21-9, 10-8). Fel­low se­nior Seth Allen added 20.

“We’re not in­vin­ci­ble; any­one can be beaten on any given day. We need to know that. We’ve been in so many close games,” LeDay said.

Af­ter out­shoot­ing Wake For­est by a 2-1 ra­tio early, the Hok­ies hit a flat spot mid­way through the first half be­fore catch­ing a sec­ond wind. A Vir­ginia Tech lead that had been whit­tled to three swelled to 11 with five min­utes left in the first half. But Wake For­est bat­tled back again to cut its deficit to 47-42 at the break.

Wake For­est for­ward John Collins came into the con­test hav­ing scored 20 points or more in 12 straight con­tests, the long­est ACC streak in three years. But he picked up three fouls be­fore half­time and was score­less in the first half.

Collins warmed up af­ter the break with 13 points that helped the De­mon Dea­cons claw back for the vic­tory.

“We just put the next man up,” Man­ning said. “Of­fen­sively I thought the ball moved a lot bet­ter in the sec­ond half.”

The Dea­cons shot 21 of their 33 free throw at­tempts in the sec­ond half.

“There was a stretch where they called about like five [fouls] in a row,” Allen said. “The free throw dif­fer­ence was a re­ally big key.”

Said Hok­ies Coach Buzz Wil­liams: “I didn’t think we played with the height­ened level of en­ergy that we have to play with.”

Wake For­est at­tacked the in­te­rior more in the sec­ond half to earn the come­back win.

Vir­ginia Tech shot 51.7 per­cent for the game.

The loss at sold-out Cas­sell Coli­seum pre­vented Vir­ginia Tech from reach­ing 11 con­fer­ence wins for the first time since it joined the ACC in the 2004-05 sea­son. Present to watch the sea­son-end­ing loss was re­tired foot­ball coach Frank Beamer.

Com­ing in af­ter up­set­ting eighth-ranked Louisville on Wed­nes­day, the De­mon Dea­cons likely needed the win to keep alive any hope of earn­ing an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.

Both teams turn their at­ten­tion to the ACC tournament.

The Hok­ies head to the Bar­clays Cen­ter in Brook­lyn hav­ing earned a first-round bye, with their first op­po­nent yet to be de­ter­mined. Vir­ginia Tech is the No. 7 seed.

Wake For­est will be a No. 10 or No. 11 seed. The Hok­ies and De­mon Dea­cons will match up again if Wake beats Bos­ton Col­lege in the open­ing round. Wil­liams thinks this may be one of the best ACC tour­na­ments ever. “It’s easy to be a fan of this league,” he said.

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