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Live analysis: Miami 82, Virginia Tech 75 (final)

Virginia Tech and Miami enter Sunday's game headed opposite directions.

The Hokies (16-3, 3-2) are coming off a thrilling overtime win at Virginia, a victory that represented their first road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference and could serve as a pivotal point in their season. The Hurricanes (15-5, 1-5) look like the weakest team in the ACC after losing four in a row.

In fact, Virginia Tech's 81-66 win over Miami in Blacksburg on Jan. 13 help set the course for both teams; the Hurricanes have not won since that loss to the Hokies, although they have played three of those games away from Coral Gables.

In their initial meeting, Virginia Tech made a statement in the first half, running off to a 50-23 lead. It was the Hokies' largest halftime lead in an ACC game; they joined the league before the 2004-05 season. Although Miami narrowed the margin in the second half, the Hokies slowed down offensively and slacked on defense with a large lead.

In practice before the game, Virginia Tech worked on attacking the Hurricanes' 2-3 zone defense. The Hokies' coaches exploited holes in the middle, which created passing lanes and opened up shots for Virginia Tech's guards on the perimeter.

"It was important to win this game so we had no self doubt," Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg said after the confidence-boosting victory. "We are a good team."

On Sunday, keep an eye on Miami's three-point shooting; the Hurricanes have had success from behind the arc, making 37.7 percent of their shots from deep and making a league-leading 8.1 three-pointers per game. This could be a key if Miami has success against the Hokies because it may need to make a run aided by hot-shooting guards from deep.

For Virginia Tech, it will be important to clamp down against the Hurricanes and also to try to win the turnover battle. Virginia Tech ranks second in the ACC in the turnover margin, at plus-3.74. Miami has not won the turnover battle and is at minus-.25. If the offensively challenged Hokies will probably need to help generating offense out of solid defense and by forcing turnovers.

1:08 p.m | Forward Jeff Allen was in the starting line up for Virginia Tech. Greenberg had said Allen had already served his punishment after being ejected for hitting a Virginia player with an elbow on Thursday. It's important to get Allen, who has played inconsistently, involved early and often. Guard Malcolm Delaney did that by throwing a nice pass for an easy lay up. That's a good start for Allen. The Hokies take a 2-0 lead.

1:13 p.m. | The color commentator just pointed out that Miami, which went on a 7-0 run, looks alert and ready to play from the outset. The Hurricanes' shot is on and they have a 7-4 lead.

1:18 p.m. | You can hear Greenberg screaming about Virginia Tech's interior defense. The Hokies double-teamed Dwayne Collins but could not stop him on the inside. It's not the type of defense Virginia Tech has preached; defense been a focus of Greenberg's message since the preseason and in practice. Miami has a 12-8 lead.

1:22 p.m. | Greenberg talked about using more of his bench in a 10-day stretch that features four games. You can see that right now; Ben Boggs is on the floor early. Meanwhile, Jeff Allen looks like he's ready to play; let's see how or if the Hokies continue to keep him involved, and what dynamic he'll add as Virginia Tech attacks the relatively soft middle of Miami's 2-3 zone. The Hurricanes have a 16-11 lead.

1:26 p.m. | A commenter below, footballjones40, pointed out Delaney's pass to Allen to start the game. You're definitely right. Delaney is a dynamic scorer and a great shooter, but his ability to distribute is underrated. He knows how and when to get his teammates involved, and he's got pretty good vision for those type of easy buckets. That Allen pass was a good example. Miami has a 18-13 lead.

1:31 p.m. | Delaney has two fouls and is on the bench. In his place, freshman Erick Green is running the offense, which looks a little out of sync. The Hokies seem to be having a tough time penetrating Miami's zone defense. The Hurricanes have a 22-16 lead.

1:36 p.m. | Seeing the shots of sunny Miami, I'm really bitter I'm buried under snow in Blacksburg.

1:38 p.m. | Another game, another elbow. A game after Allen was ejected for hitting a Virginia player with an elbow, Green hit Miami's Durand Scott with an elbow as he tried to get some separation from him around mid-court. It didn't look malicious, but he was whistled nevertheless. Greenberg got his first technical foul of the season after the call was made; he has already taken off his suit jacket. The Hurricanes lead 24-17.

1:42 p.m. | That's a good question, footballjones40. I know the coaches are very high on Cadarian Raines and his potential, so if he comes along as a player and starts to get more comfortable in Virginia Tech's system, I think you'll see him a lot instead of Victor Davila. I also think Greenberg can do some interesting things to manipulate his lineup. He could go with a bigger look if the Hokies are playing, say, Florida State and find different ways to utilize big guys like Raines, Davila, Allen and Allan Chaney. Or they can go with more guard-oriented looks with Delaney, Green and Dorenzo Hudson. This is all contingent upon Delaney and Allen returning to Blacksburg next season; at this point, I have no information on that one way or the other.

1:52 p.m. | Virginia Tech is getting into foul trouble. Green just picked up his third on a reach-in foul. This could hurt the Hokies down the stretch. Miami leads 38-28.

1:57 p.m. | Wow. Hudson picks up his second foul on a Miami player shooting a three-pointer. The Hurricanes benefited from a 4-point swing and made 2 of 3 free-throws with 38.8 second remaining in the first half. This is not how the Hokies wanted to finish the first half. After scoring 8 straight points, Miami has a 44-28 lead.

2:02 p.m. | Virginia Tech imploded at the end of the first half. Miami has a 47-30 lead at halftime. I'll have some statistics and thoughts on the first half in a minute.

2:15 p.m. | Virginia Tech is down by 17 points at halftime of a game that seemed to be a great opportunity to pick up a road win in the ACC and to position itself well for the NCAA tournament. This is exactly what the Hokies needed to avoid.

The Hurricanes are shooting 70.7 percent from the field, making 5 of 8 from three-point range, and the Hokies are not playing the kind of defense that has helped it to its 16-3 record. Virginia Tech has turned the ball over nine times, and its players are having trouble avoiding fouls.

It doesn't set up much better than playing a winnable road game at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables. On Sunday, Miami's home gym seems like one of the most subdued environments in the ACC. On a lazy afternoon, there hardly seems to be any buzz in the place, and it's certainly not an atmosphere where the home team will go on runs aided by the crowd.

In the second half, Virginia Tech will need to get more active on the defensive end to get hands in the face of Miami shooters and to shore up its slacking interior defense. The Hokies also need to figure out how to get penetration from their post players to help expand their offense. Delaney, Allen and Hudson have each scored 10 points, and that's it for the Hokies.

2:20 p.m. | Virginia Tech started the second half with better pace and intensity, but that hasn't stopped Miami. The Hurricanes keept hitting shots as the Hokies try to put together a run. J.T. Thompson, who the Hokies look to to provide energy, has just check in. Let's see if he build off his break-out performance at Virginia. The Hurricanes lead, 52-34.

2:22 p.m. | The body language of Virginia Tech's players isn't looking good. Does anyone else agree? A lot of the guys look deflated as Miami has taken a 55-36 lead.

2:30 p.m. | Virginia Tech is shooting itself in the foot with these fouls. Hokie guard Terrell Bell just fouled Miami's Malcolm Grant with the shot clock almost expired.

2:34 p.m. | This is exactly what Virginia Tech needs out of Thompson, who Greenberg has called the "Energizer bunny." Thompson has scored 11 second-half points and highlighted his afternoon so far with an emphatic dunk with 13:38 left. The Hokies are making a run, but Miami still has a 56-47 lead.

2:44 p.m. | If Virginia Tech cannot stop Miami from hitting three-pointers, it will not win. The Hokies can't shoot with the Hurricanes, who are one of the ACC's best three-point shooting teams. The Hokies need to keep Miami's shooters close. The Hurricanes lead, 65-54.

2:47 p.m. | Virginia Tech has gone on a 7-0 run and its bench is going crazy. The Hokies are really showing their mettle after facing a tough climb. We've got a basketball game. Miami has a 65-59 lead.

2:52 p.m. | What if Virginia Tech started the game this way? The Hokies are playing better defense and are forcing turnovers, which has been a key to their success. The final 5 minutes should be interesting. Miami has a 65-60 lead.

2:56 p.m. | You can just see how the confidence has grown in Hudson. Like no other player on Virginia Tech's roster, Hudson has grown bounds from November through now. He just hit a big-time jumper to cut Miami's lead to 69-64.

3:06 p.m. | With about 2 minutes left, Virginia Tech had a terrible possession, as Bell threw a poor pass to Delaney. The ball ended being deflected out of bounds and was a huge opportunity that the Hokies threw away. The Hokies need to clamp down on Miami's three-point shooters and work efficiently on offense in order to have a chance at the end. Miami has a 71-66 lead.

3:07 p.m. | It's crunch time for Virginia Tech. With 1:08 left, Miami has a 73-68 lead.

3:10 p.m. | As it has been noted by the announcers, Thompson had another solid showing. Even if Virginia Tech loses, this will be a very promising sign. The Hokies needed him to step up and be a positive contributor. But the game is still on the line. Now it's time for the free-throw dance. Virginia Tech will need a little luck. With 46.3 second left, Miami has a 75-70 lead.

3:12 p.m. | Virginia Tech had a poor offensive possession as Delaney threw up a failed attempt. With 14.2 seconds left, it looks like curtains for the Hokies. Miami leads, 77-70.

3:20 p.m. | While Virginia Tech kept fighting until the end, time ran out for the Hokies in Coral Gables. Miami defeated Virginia Tech, 82-75. I'll have a longer wrap up on this in a few minutes.

3:34 p.m. | Virginia Tech was in position to set itself on course for the NCAA tournament with two pivotal road games in a four-day stretch. The Hokies thrilling overtime win at Virginia seemed like it had turned their season, but that notion changed again on Sunday.

With a 82-75 loss at Miami, Virginia Tech came back to the reality that it still has a long, tough fight in the ACC if it wants to play meaningful basketball in March.

The Hurricanes (16-5, 2-5) were coming off of four losses and appeared to be the weakest team in the conference. It set up nicely for the Hokies (16-4, 3-3) as they enter the important month of February, but they could not take advantage of the opportunity to steal another road win.

Miami built an early first-half lead and got ahead by as many as 19 point before the Hokies showed their grit by narrowing the deficit in the second half. All night, Virginia Tech had trouble defending the Hurricanes' three-point shooters; Miami is one of the conference's top-shooting teams from behind the arc.

Virginia Tech returns to Blacksburg to host North Carolina on Thursday and then Clemson on Saturday. Both games will be important as the Hokies navigate through the white-knuckle ACC.

By Mark Viera  |  January 31, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
 
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Next: Virginia Tech falls to struggling Miami

Comments

Strong pass by Malcolm. I think that's a very underrated part of his game.

Posted by: footballjones40 | January 31, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Mark, a question I've been thinking about. With some talented freshman coming in next year in addition to Allan Chaney, which current starter will see the biggest drop in minutes?

Posted by: footballjones40 | January 31, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Disappointing game. If VT wants respect, we have to win these games. Other than JT Thompson, the bench production is lacking.

Posted by: footballjones40 | January 31, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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