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Rhode Island 79, Virginia Tech 72: Hokies Go Cold Down the Stretch Again

This game reminded me a lot of the Miami game in the ACC Tournament. Tech looks strong for a while, but couldn't buy a shot down the stretch and wound up losing a game they should have won. It's almost become a trademark of Hokie basketball the last three years. When there's an important game with a lot on the line, the Hokies can't close it out.

The UConn game was a nice win for the Hokies, but it the Huskies weren't the toughest team in this region. That was Rhode Island and the Rams proved that Wednesday night. They trapped and pressed their way to 79-72 win and a trip to New York.

Early in the second half, this certainly didn't look like the Hokies we were used to seeing recently. They didn't wilt after what looked to be the turning point of the game: Jeff Allen's turnover and Delroy James' tip-in as time expired in the first half. It looked to be the reverse of Monday's game when the Hokies hit a buzzer beater before the half and then went on a run to start the second.

Instead, Tech was the team that responded to start the second half. The Hokies scored 18 points in 5:17 of the half to take a 60-48 lead. What happened after that was disaster. Tech was out-scored 31-12 and had its season end on its home floor in front of a frenzied crowd with a berth in the NIT semifinals on the line. No matter how you cut it, the Hokies choked.

In the last 16 minutes of the game, Tech went 2-for-19 from the floor. Meanwhile, Rhode Island made nine of its last 18 shots.

Despite all the misses and all the offensive rebounds for the Rams, Tech still had a chance to win after a Jeff Allen steal with 1:14 left while down two. Tech came out of a timeout and saw J.T. Thompson miss a lay-up. Needing a stop, Tech watched Lamonte Ulmer get his own offensive rebound and get the put-back as the shot clock expired to give URI a 75-71 lead with 10 seconds left.

On the play, Ulmer retrieved a loose ball and collided with Allen near the baseline. Several Hokie fans felt like he may have gone out of bounds when he and Allen collided. However, after looking at the play on DVR I don't think he did. At full-speed it doesn't look like he went out.

In slow-motion, you see Ulmer's foot go toward the baseline as it comes off the floor. It was inconclusive and if he went out, it was by millimeters. At full speed, there's no way an official could call Ulmer out. It was a good call and one that would ultimately cost the Hokies.

The loss was disappointing, but the Hokies have no one to blame but themselves. They went cold and when they needed a crucial stop they couldn't come up with it. Now that I think about it, it was a pretty fitting end for a season in which the Hokies did plenty, but just not enough in the end.