Saturday, February 4, 2012

ACC Friday: Virginia, Virginia Tech drop close ones

In separate television appearances Friday night, Virginia and Virginia Tech showed the nation what fans around here already know - both teams will compete like crazy. They'll battle 'til the end. And occasionally, they'll break your heart.

No. 23 North Carolina 64, Virginia 56: The Tar Heels appeared to have this one under control up 42-26 with less than 16 minutes to go. But then the Cavaliers started making shots, turning the Tar Heels over and getting to the free throw line. A pair of Chelsea Shine free throws cut the deficit to single digits. Two more from the line out of Ariana Moorer made it a one-possession game (46-44). And when Lexie Gerson went 2-2 from the stripe with four minutes remaining, the Cavaliers were finally even at 52. They couldn't quite get completely over the hump, though. A Tierra Ruffin-Pratt 3-point play with 1:32 to play gave the Tar Heels the lead for good at 57-54, and Candace Wood's dagger 3-pointer with 56 seconds left made it a 4-point UNC edge. By this point, Virginia was out of answers. Moorer finished with a game-high 21 points for UVa., Gerson added 14 and Ataira Frankin chipped in 11 (all in the second half) for the Cavaliers. UNC center Chay Shegog scored 20 points, 14 of them in staking the Tar Heels to that 16-point lead. Carolina also succeeded in forcing 21 turnovers, an uncharacteristically high total from the the Cavaliers. Maybe having to rally from a 16-point deficit sapped a shorthanded Virginia's team's energy for the final minutes. Whatever the case, put this one in the burgeoning file of games (Miami, Maryland, first meeting with North Carolina) in which the Cavaliers battled valiantly against a ranked team but couldn't quite seal the deal.

Clemson 55, Virginia Tech 51 (OT): First the good news....

- a crowd of 3,467 turned out at Cassell Coliseum to see a matchup of rebuilding teams. When the Hokies build their program to the point where they're challenging for ACC titles, that joint is really going to be jumpin'.

- Latorri Hines-Allen went the first 38-plus minutes without scoring a point. Then with 1:08 to play and the Hokies trailing 47-42, she stripped Clemson's Chancie Dunn clean, drove three-quarters court, got hacked in the act of making the fast-break layup and converted the free throw. And on Tech's next possession, she snatched the rebound of an Aerial Wilson 3-point attempt and stuck it back to force overtime tied at 47. Simply a remarkable sequence.

- Hines-Allen grabbed 10 of Tech's 28 offensive rebounds and set a career high with 16 total rebounds.

Now the not-so-good news....

- So many missed shots. So many missed jump shots. The Hokies made just 17 of 79 field goal tries - 30 less than Clemson - and most of the attempts were from the perimeter. Tech's output included a 6 of 33 effort from the 3-point line.Wilson made 4 of a school record-tying 15 3-point attempts. Monet Tellier was 1 for 13 from 3-point range and 4 of 22 overall. You kept wondering when the Hokies would abandon the deep-ball strategy and start attacking the basket. And they did - every now and then. I don't know, maybe the Hokies resist doing this too much for fear of getting fouled since they've been one of the nation's worst free throw shooting teams. Whatever the reason, the Hokies continued to try their luck from a step or so inside or outside the arc. And on this night, those shots simply weren't falling.

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