It took three and a half years, but this afternoon, the Jackets picked up their first ranked win in McCamish Pavilion and their first top five win since Tech took down Duke in 2010! On the heels of two close road losses, the Jackets came out strong and gave the home crowd a win to remember for years.
Tech was led in the early stages of the game by Quinton Stephens, who knocked down ten quick points and put the Jackets up 15-7, just seven minutes into the game. Tech held a strong lead the rest of the half, leading by as many as 15 points and took an 11 point lead into half.
UVA came out of halftime much more focused on defense and the Jackets struggled to get baskets as UVA slowly chipped away at the lead. With just over six minutes remaining in the game, UVA tied it up off of a Marial Shayok three and Tech fans were left saying "here we go again." However, the Jackets answered right back out of a timeout and Stephens hit two threes to stretch the lead back to eight, and the game was all Tech from that point on. After the longest last minute in sports and a few missed free throws, the final buzzer sounded at 68-64, but the game was never truly in doubt in the final minute.
The Jackets traditional top duo of Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell combined for just nine points, but Stephens, Adam Smith, and Nick Jacobs all chipped in 16 points each. The Jackets supporting cast deserves a ton of credit for taking down the Hoos when Tech's top three scorers (MGH, Chuck, Smith) went just 9-31 from the field after scoring 59 against UNC and 54 against Pitt.
Once again, Tech dominated the glass, outrebounding UVA 41-29, including 11 offensive rebounds which led to fifteen second chance points.
Another key factor in this game was effectiveness from beyond the three point line. While UVA was just 4-18, Tech was 8-15, with four threes from Stephens and Smith each.
The significance of this win cannot be stated enough. In the second half, the Jackets went on a near eight minute drought that allowed UVA to tie it up and forced coach Gregory to call a timeout. In years past, the Jackets would have crumpled at this point, playing a team close for 35 minutes before falling down the stretch. However, they responded with an 8-0 run that forced UVA to call a timeout of their own and never looked back. For a team hoping to be on the bubble of the NCAA tournament, every win matters, and a top 5 win almost counts double.
The gauntlet to start the ACC season continues on Wednesday as Tech travels to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Hopefully this huge win helps the Jackets build some momentum and continue to make noise in the ACC.