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March 16, 2007
Hokies sneak away with late win over Illinois
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Virginia Tech waited 11 years - and most of its first-round game against Illinois - to win another NCAA tournament game.
After trailing by as many as 13, the Hokies beat Illinois 54-52 on Deron Washington's banked runner in the final minute Friday night in a first-round game in the West Regional.
Illinois (23-12) led by 10 with just over 4 minutes left, but didn't score in the last 4:28 as the Hokies had the last 12 points.
After trailing 52-42, the Hokies (24-11) pulled to 52-50 with Washington hitting a 3-pointer, Coleman Collins making two free throws and Washington shooting another 3 from the right corner with 2:25 left.
While the Fighting Illini continued to have problems at the offensive end, the Hokies suddenly had all the answers.
After Jamon Gordon's free throw and a miss by Illinois, the Hokies trailed 52-51 with just under a minute left. They moved the ball around the perimeter before Washington drove the lane and let fly with a 14-footer that bounded off the backboard and fell in with 45.5 seconds left.
A.D. Vassallo added a free throw after two more Illinois misses, giving the Illini one last shot.
They passed around the ball before settling for Brian Randle's jumper from the left corner with 7 seconds left. The ball caromed back toward him and he got the rebound, but was fouled by a diving Washington with 4.9 seconds left.
Randle, a junior shooting just 57.7 percent at the line for his career, then missed the front end of the bonus situation. The ball rolled loose in a scrum, Randle picked it up and tried to get off a shot while a defender also had his hands on it.
Virginia Tech ended up with possession with one-tenth of a second left, tossing a pass to midcourt to seal the win.
Washington led the Hokies with 14 points, and Collins added 13.
After Randle made a shot with 4:28 left, the Illini missed their last seven and had three turnovers.
The Illini had won their last nine NCAA first-round games.
Virginia Tech struggled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games and going 5-6 over the last 11 heading into the NCAA tournament.
The game wasn't pretty, but it was somehow a perfect fit for a game played in a Big Ten locale.
Illinois came out of the blocks throwing its weight around under the basket to take a lead, then relied on its bruising defense the rest of the way.
The Illini led 29-21 at the half before the Hokies opened the second half on a 6-2 run. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was then whistled for a technical foul when he argued about contact on a loose ball, and McBride converted both free throws and later added a 3-pointer.
Reserve Trent Meacham made a 3-pointer from the top of the key before Carter hit a short turnaround shot - and suddenly, the Illini were on top 46-34 with under 9 minutes left.
Against Illinois' brawny defense, that margin seemed to be more than enough.
The loss cost the Big Ten a perfect 6-0 start in first-round games.
The Hokies persevered despite shooting just 36 percent from the field and missing 10 free throws.