After trailing by double digits late in the second half, Virginia Tech came from behind and upset No.3 Villanova 81-73 in a thrilling overtime game that wasn’t even supposed to happen in the first place.
Despite some late-game adversity, the Hokies (2-0) defeated one of college basketball’s best teams on Saturday thanks to 23 points and eight rebounds from Keve Aluma, 20 points from Nahiem Alleyne off the bench and a stuffed stat sheet by Tyrece Radford with eight points, five assists and 13 rebounds.
For Villanova, Collin Gillespie scored a team-high 25 points, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produced 14 points and 9 rebounds and Caleb Daniels added 17 points of his own.
“Needless to say, I’m happy with our team and their toughness,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said during the postgame press conference. “We came in here with a plan, but it’s up to them to believe and fight and hang in there and find a way.”
“I thought we guarded so very well throughout [the game] and we did it again over a five-minute period in the overtime and found a way to win,” Young added. “Huge win for us.”
The non-conference game was highly competitive and after 20 minutes of action the score was tied 29-29 going into halftime. In the beginning of the second half, the two teams were still trading scores, and found themselves tied at 38 five minutes in.
It seemed as if Villanova was going to pull away from Tech after going on a 14-2 run midway through the second half to take a 12-point lead, the largest of the game. But the Hokies slowly chipped away at the deficit until the team was down by 62-61 with 12 seconds left.
What followed next is arguably one of the wildest sequences of the young college basketball season so far.
With 10 seconds left and clinging to a one-point lead, Villanova’s Justin Moore missed a one-and-one free throw, giving Virginia Tech a shot to win the game. After collecting the rebound Virginia Tech hurried up the floor and got the ball into guard Cartier Diarra’s hands.
Diarra drove down the lane and was able to find Aluma underneath the basket on a quick pass, who proceeded to score a layup and get fouled with just 1.3 remaining on the clock, giving the Hokies a 63-62 lead.
“That was a key, just keeping our cool and feeding off our bench’s energy, that helped us through the game,” Aluma said, according to ESPN.
Trying to intentionally miss the free throw, which Young confirmed was the plan after the game, Aluma ended up making the shot by banking it off the backboard. Instead of essentially sealing the victory with a miss, the made free throw kept the Wildcats’ chances alive.
On the inbounds play, Moore set a screen on Tech’s Justyn Mutts who was trying to guard the pass and ended up drawing a foul on the Hokies. The officials initially called the foul on Villanova before reversing the call. Moore calmly made both free throws, tying the game at 64 and forcing overtime.
Even with the confusing and controversial ending, Virginia Tech never looked back once overtime started. They outscored Villanova 17-9 in the period and secured the hard-fought victory.
Virginia Tech was originally supposed to play Temple on Saturday, but a positive COVID test on Thanksgiving in the Owls program forced the team to pause activities for two weeks, and left both Tech and Villanova without opponents.
The two teams agreed to play even though both programs had just one days’ notice and very little time for preparation.
“We are here to play, we are here to challenge ourselves and we are here to improve. Was I thrilled that we were matched with Villanova? No, not this early in the season,” Young said. “It’s a different year, needless to say, so we’re going to challenge ourselves and we’re going to lay it on the line, and they did exactly that.”
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Virginia Tech Basketball” by The Virginia Tech Hokies.