Virginia Tech 65, St. John's 59
by Will Stewart,, 1/27/01

USA Today box score

Blacksburg, VA -- The Virginia Tech men's basketball team ambushed the St. John's Red Storm in Cassell Coliseum, using a balanced attack to down the top team in the East Division of the Big East, 65-59.

Up 60-51 with 2:03 to go, the Hokies had to hold on down the stretch. St. John's was able to close the gap to 61-59, but with 22.7 seconds to go, Tech's Carlton Carter grabbed a crucial offensive rebound when he snared the second of two missed free throws by Tech's Jon Smith. Carter was immediately fouled, and he hit both free throws with 19.7 seconds to go to put Tech up 63-59.

After a missed layup by St. John's, Tech's Bryant Matthews provided the final margin by making two free throws with 9.9 seconds to go.

The Hokies spread the scoring around. They were led by reserves Joe Hamilton with 12 points and Danny Gathings with 11. Bryant Matthews and Carlos Dixon had 9 points each, and Carter had 8. Carter led all rebounders with 13 boards, 3 on the offensive end.

The victory stunned the St. John's Red Storm, who whipped the Hokies 89-64 in a laugher on January 3rd in New York. The Johnnies came into this game flat and uninspired and contributed to Tech's cause, making just 2-19 three pointers and 9-17 free throws. St. John's went 24-66 (36.4%) from the field, and the Hokies took advantage of the opportunity, going 22-45 (48.9%) from the field and making 15 of their 22 free throws.

Virginia Tech started the game in a zone defense, and St. John's never solved it. The Red Storm made 2 of their first 3 three-pointers and then went stone cold, missing 16 straight from beyond the arc. The Hokies stayed in the zone for the entire game, and when St. John's had success penetrating it, Tech's interior defenders often sent them packing, blocking 8 shots for the game (3 by Jon Smith).

It was clear from the beginning that the Hokies were going to play a better game than the one they played against Providence on January 20th, when the Friars came into Cassell and took a 71-42 lead before coasting to a 75-60 win. But the Hokies were still down 20-13 when Alpha Bangura, who led St. John's with 17 points, made a layup with 10:07 to got in the first half.

At that point, St. John's gave no inkling that anything was amiss. But in the next 5:44, the Hokies went on a 16-5 run to take a 29-25 lead with 4:33 to go on a free throw by Carlton Carter. The run featured three pointers by Joe Hamilton and Danny Gathings that ignited the home crowd of 5,724, and a long two-pointer by Bryant Matthews that tied the score at 25.

St. John's roared back to take a 33-31 lead with 1:11 to go, but it would be their last lead of the game. After tying the game 33-33 on two Mibindo Dongo free throws, the Hokies took a 36-33 lead into half time when Joe Hamilton hit a baseline three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Hokies came out in the second half and seized control with a 12-4 run, taking a 48-37 lead with 13:53 to go on a double-pumping layup by Danny Gathings. Tech had a chance to blow the game wide open during the run, but they missed two straight three-pointers while holding a 46-35 lead.

From that point on, the Hokies struggled to score, but fortunately, so did St. John's. The Red Storm closed it to 52-45 with 9:37 to go, but neither team scored again until Gathings made another layup with 5:14 to go to make it 54-45.

Tech took the lead 60-51 with 2:03 to go on a jumper by Hamilton, but as they have done many times this season, the Hokies wilted down the stretch. In the next one-and-a-half minutes, Tech missed the front end of a one-and-one and turned the ball over twice. St. John's made four straight layups and closed the gap to 60-59 with 34 seconds to go.

After a made free throw by Carlton Carter that boosted the lead back to 61-59, St. John's guard Omar Cook missed a layup with 25 seconds to go. Jon Smith got the rebound for Tech and was fouled by Cook with 22.7 seconds to go. Smith missed both free throws, leading to Carlton Carter's key rebound and two made free throws.

In the last minute of the game, Carter was 3-4 from the free throw line and had two rebounds, and he was named player of the game by the ISP broadcasting crew of Bill Roth and Mike Burnop.

"I just want to thank the fans for not giving up on us and for coming out today," was Carter's first comment after the game. "We just wanted to come out and show them that we hadn't given up, either."

In the post-game celebration, Tech coach Ricky Stokes pumped his fists and jumped up and down at center court. The team went into the tunnel, then came back out, gathered at center court in a circle, and chanted and did a victory dance.

St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis, who is familiar with Virginia Tech and Cassell Coliseum from his coaching days at George Washington, warned his team not to take the Hokies lightly, but the Red Storm was caught napping by the last-place team in the Eastern Division of the Big East.

The Hokies are now 8-10 overall, 2-5 in the Big East. St. John's drops to 11-7 overall, 5-2 in the league.


TSL Men's Hoops Page

TSL Home