Here's the thing about Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney. You have to take the good with the bad with him. At the end of the day, there's going to be more good than bad, but the bad is going to get a lot more publicity. A perfect example came Thursday night in the Hokies' three-point loss in a rock fight at North Carolina.
Delaney had the ball with 20 seconds left and the Hokies trailing by one. He held for the final shot, as the Hokies went four low leaving Delaney isolated at the top of the key with UNC's Kendall Marshall. On the previous trip down the floor, Delaney knocked down a step-back three against Dexter Strickland to get Tech within one. He took the same shot against Marshall, who managed to get a hand in his face. Clang.
The bottom line is the Hokies wouldn't have been in a position to win the game without Delaney's 28 points, aided by 7-for-12 from behind the arc. Having him take the same shot -- a tough fade-away three -- he had just attempted when everyone in the gym knew he was going to be the guy to take the final shot, is frustrating. Of course if he makes it, it only adds to his legend.
Delaney is going to leave Virginia Tech with a legacy of big-time performances. However, if his and the Hokies' performance in end-game situations doesn't improve, he'll also leave a legacy of having never gotten them to the NCAA Tournament.
What we saw against UNC was a repeat of the Purdue game earlier this year. This time, Tech didn't have a timeout to take to prepare for the game's final possession. That, in and of itself, is inexcusable. On the road, you need that timeout to set up a play. At home it's easier because the crowd isn't going to be as loud and you can call out a set from the bench.
But in Chapel Hill with over 20,000 fans making it their job to keep you from hearing anything, it's not possible. You need to be able to draw something up. Against Purdue, the play was apparently for Delaney to drive to the basket and either get fouled or try to get a layup. He didn't get the bail-out call he was looking for and turned the ball over. Against UNC, the plan was again for Delaney to take the final shot.
Give credit where it's due to Marshall for playing tough defense and getting a hand in Delaney's face on the final shot. But Thursday's game was just another example of the Hokies failing to close in a game they needed to win. You can't put all of the blame on Delaney, but if he and Tech can't fix their inability to finish, he's going to leave Blacksburg without playing on college basketball's biggest stage.
As for the rest of the game, Tech did what it had to do, which was ugly up the game. The result was 35 combined turnovers and a combined 40.5 shooting percentage. Erick Green showed flashes of brilliance and flashes of inexperience. Jeff Allen led the Hokies in rebounding, but also played limited minutes due to foul trouble. The Hokies played tough defense, but were careless with the ball and benefited from UNC having a general off night.
Take the good with the bad.