|VT 57, La Salle 46|
|Hokie Central's Game Report|
This one was classic Bill Foster/Virginia Tech basketball: winning ugly.
I've never really thought highly of that phrase, though, because scoring more points than the other team is pretty, period.
This game saw the return of the Cassell Coliseum crowd to the sub-5,000 mark (4,347), although it was at times a vocal crowd. More importantly, this game saw the return of Ace Custis to form. After posting just 4 points in the first half, along with 7 rebounds, Ace nearly posted a double-double in the second half (14 points, 9 boards) and finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
The Hokies played stifling defense, limiting La Salle to 27% shooting, including just 21% in the crucial second half. La Salle is a donut team - they've got a hole in the middle, at least when it comes to shot selection. According to Bill Roth, La Salle's guards took 41 of their 52 shot attempts. Tech Windex'd the glass to the tune of a 41-26 advantage over La Salle, including 13 offensive boards by the Hokies (which follows a strong performance of 17 offensive boards against Rhode Island).
Not only did the Hokies have the advantage inside, but on the outside, they limited the effectiveness of hotshot La Salle freshman Donnie Carr, who was second in the nation in scoring coming in. Carr shot a woeful 5-23 and finished with 20 points.
Tech struggled offensively, shooting 37% percent on a night that saw them get very few easy shot attempts in the half court offense. As usual, Bill Foster slowed down the tempo, primarily because La Salle also runs a patient offense with lots of picks, and Foster didn't want his guys launching quick shots and then wearing themselves out with long stints on the defensive end.
A bright spot for Tech was the continued resurgence of Keefe Matthews. He only scored 6 points on 1-8 shooting, but he snared 8 rebounds, including a whopping 5 on the offensive end. You can't judge Keefe's play these days by his stats, though. You have to see him in person, where you can observe his increased aggressiveness and confidence. His socks keep dropping (they're barely above his ankles now), and his play keeps improving. Most importantly, when the rebounds are in the air, it's no longer Ace against the other team. He's got some consistent help now.
The game went in spurts. With the score basically tied in the low 30's, Tech went on a run that lit up the crowd and pushed the Hokies ahead 39-32. La Salle responded with an 8-point run, and with 7 minutes to go, the score was 40-39, La Salle. From there on, the Hokies blew the Explorers out, scoring 16 of the next 18 points to take a 55-42 lead.
Ace was a warrior, battling under the boards and producing points the only way he knows how - with gritty post play. His second half surge, plus the defensive clamps the Hokies put on, essentially won the game for the Hokies.
Tech's record is now 9-7, 3-3 in the Atlantic 10.
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