BLASCKSBURG, Va. — With Virginia Tech and BYU both having low shooting nights in their nonconference game against each other on Wednesday, the score was tied with 48 seconds left in a game that held extra uncertainty for both teams.
The Cougs' 70-68 win seemed overall to be a game of uncertainty and perplexity. Starting the game with a 0-16 run, the Hokies held open the door of opportunity, but the Cougs quickly shut it by mirroring the Hokies’ inability to sink shots.
The back-and forth-battling was halted with 26 seconds left in the game, when Brock Zylstra hit his first basket of the game, a 3-pointer, and put an end to the 66-all score. On the Hokies’ next possession, Anson Winder stole the ball and took a foul, hitting one of two free throws.
The Cougar ability to perform during crunch time was vital for a win on Wednesday.
"When it comes down to when we are challenged, we can respond," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "When we aren’t playing well, we can respond, and when we aren’t scoring the ball, we can still guard hard. I think we have made some progress in that over the last two or three days."
While Virginia Tech tried to perform equally well under pressure – hitting a quick two after Winder’s foul shot and then grabbing a steal on BYU’s inbound pass – the Hokies’ last possession had the Cougs heavily contesting every shot and forcing VT into a deep three at the buzzer, which clanked and left BYU with a 70-68 win.
The Cougars’ win in Blacksburg gave BYU its first road win against an ACC team in the school’s history.
“It was really fun getting the first road win in the ACC environment,” BYU forward Noah Hartsock said. “It was a physical game. It was just a great opportunity for us, and we took advantage of it."
While the Cougars did hold the lead of the game until there was 17:15 on the clock in the second half, the low shooting percentage for the Cougs on the floor allowed the Hokies to ultimately take a mile forward with their progressive inching.
Repeatedly unable to hit uncontested field goals, the Cougs gave meat to the scoreboard with the truly contested shots, free throws. Serving the scoreboard with a 21-24 record from the charity line, BYU held off VT’s score by having the players physically held off during Cougar shots.
Starting the final period shooting seven of ten, the Hokies broke down the point barrier and gave themselves a six-point advantage, 45-39, with 11:14 remaining in the game.
It was a grind of a game. I think the most important thing for our players, win or lose in this game, was to really believe we could be more competitive and be a tougher group of guys that are resilient.
VT’s run seemed to guide point guard Matt Carlino to a well of points, ending his scoring drought and answering the Hokies’ lightning strike with five straight points, Carlino signicantly contributed to the Cougs’ 11-0 run that gave the Y a 50-45 lead.
With the game then moving to a give-and-take style until Zylstra’s three, the BYU win was a hard-fought battle for both sides.
Many areas of concern are obvious from the Cougs’ play on Wednesday. An intensely close game may be the perfect preparation for the Cougs’ home game onSaturday against nationally ranked (20th) St. Mary’s.
"It was a grind of a game," Rose said. "I think the most important thing for our players, win or lose in this game, was to really believe we could be more competitive and be a tougher group of guys that are resilient."