|Virginia Tech 76, Duquesne 62|
|Hokie Central's Game Report|
If you missed this one, then you missed a going-out party and a coming-out party.
The "going-out" party was the jersey retirement of Ace Custis just before the game. Ace became only the third Virginia Tech men's basketball player to have his jersey retired, following of course, Dell Curry and Bimbo Coles. Seeing a player's jersey framed and handed to him in a pre-game ceremony only happens about once every five or ten years, and it's a moment worth seeing, as you realize that you've seen one of the greats to ever play basketball at your school.
Ace's statistics are good. He's only the third player in VT history to accumulate 1000 points and 1000 rebounds, and he is the third leading rebounder and ninth leading scorer in Tech history. But the reasons that his jersey were retired go beyond his statistics. His jersey retirement tells more about his warrior heart, the part he played in the rejuvenation of Tech basketball, and his status as a four-year starter and ambassador of the university. There are many great Tech athletes who have never had their jerseys retired (Cornell Brown and Jim Druckenmiller come to mind), so it's a high honor indeed, and one that is not often bestowed.
The "coming-out" party was the play of Brendan Dunlop. Brendan scored 15 points and helped hold Duquesne guard Tom Pipkins, the second leading scorer in the A-10, to just 2-16 shooting. Dunlop played 33 minutes, had 15 points on 6-10 shooting, and had 3 rebounds and 3 assists. More importantly than that, he displayed poise, leadership, and the ability to drive to the bucket for scores, including a couple of moves that were spectacular. Brendan will need to bring all three of those traits - poise, leadership, and scoring ability - to what is expected to be a starting point guard role next year.
The crowd wasn't very big, only 6100, but it was a good crowd. Then again, the game was a good game. The Hokies missed a few early, but they got their shooting legs under them rather quickly and pulled away to a 41-26 half time lead. For a team that has been scoring in the 40's for an entire game, that's a remarkable half time score.
At the half, I crept down to the front row of the stands and peered at the official stats on the press row monitor, and I saw one eye-opener. Duquesne guard Mike James had 21 points at the half. His teammates' totals were a string of 1's and 0's that added up to only 5 points. James would continue his hot streak in the second half, eventually totaling 35 points, but with Pipkins not hitting his shots, and with Duquesne's anemic inside game, it just didn't matter.
In the second half, the Hokies coasted to victory behind a variety of layups, 3-pointers, crisp passes, dunks, and even a trey by Keefe Matthews (whose socks have gotten so short you couldn't even see them). Duquesne never got closer than 11 in the second half.
In the end, there was only one stat that set this game apart from the ten games or so that had come before it: Tech's shooting percentage. The Hokies had an ordinary number of turnovers (17), they didn't shoot all that well from the foul line (20-31), and they barely won the rebounding battle, 33-29. But from the floor, the Hokies hit 25-43 shots for 58%, and the game was never really in doubt, leading Bill Roth to remark on the post game broadcast, "If this team shot like that every game, they'd have 20 victories already."
The Hokies played with confidence and fire, and it was a fun game to watch, including even Mike James's performance for Duquesne. All five seniors contributed and had fun, and one of them, an Ace of a player, will have his jersey hanging from the Cassell Coliseum rafters until the place is torn down one day, a long time from now.
Tech's record is now 14-13, 7-8 in the Atlantic 10.
The Unofficial Atlantic-10 Basketball Web Site
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