Mason Helps Cavs March Past Hokies, 69-61
Dec 1, 2001
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.- Roger Mason Jr. looked at the stat sheet and shook his head like a player whose team had just been pummeled.
“I knew that they were going to play hard, and I thought that we were also,” Mason said after his 16 second-half points helped pull No. 9 Virginia out of a big hole in a 69-61 victory against Virginia Tech.
“We didn’t match their intensity early on.”
The Cavaliers (4-0) trailed 43-27 at halftime, but got serious in the second half, turning up their defensive pressure, forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets and using a 20-3 run get their first lead at 53-51.
The Hokies (4-2) rallied back to take a 59-56 lead on Carlos Dixon’s 3-pointer with 3:34 left, but Chris Williams’ putback and Mason’s foul-line jumper with 2:13 to go gave Virginia the lead for good.
“That’s us. That’s our game,” Mason, who finished with 22 points, said of the up-tempo pace. “We want to press teams and we want to make it ugly. But the only way you can do that is if you play hard.”
Coach Pete Gillen said he warned the Cavaliers that the Hokies would come in primed to knock them off their perch, but they didn’t hear him.
“When an old coach talks to young players, young players hear the words but they don’t listen,” he said, “I told our guys that this was Virginia Tech’s biggest game of the season and they want to beat us more than they want to beat anyone. At halftime, they started to believe me.”
And the Cavaliers, playing for the first time since their ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against Michigan State was canceled in the second half because of a wet floor, needed the whole second half to win this one.
Dixon and Bryant Matthews led the Hokies with 12 points and Carlton Carter had 10 points and 15 rebounds. Virginia Tech had 27 turnovers.
“In the second half, they picked up their intensity and we just didn’t execute the way we had,” said Dixon, who was 4-for-14 from the field.
“We surprised them a lot because we handled their pressure. We jumped out on them, but they just came back on us in the second half.”
After Mason scored eight points to lead the 20-3 surge, Dixon hit a jumper from the foul line, Terry Taylor converted a three-point play and Dixon hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to keep the Hokies in it.
“They were physical and banging and ripping the ball out of our hands,” Gillen said of the rugged-style Hokies. “We played soft in the first half, and in the second half we matched fire with fire.”
Williams added 16 points for the Cavaliers, who limited the Hokies to 6 field goals in 27 tries after halftime. In the first half, by contrast, the Hokies had made 7-of-10 3-pointers and shot 51.5 percent overall.
The victory was the sixth in a row and 12th in 14 games for Virginia in the series, which dates back to 1915, when the Hokies won 39-21.
The Hokies, in their third season coached by former Virginia star Ricky Stokes, were playing in Charlottesville for the first time since the 1975-76 season. Since then, the series has been played on neutral courts.
Virginia Tech’s physical play kept the Cavaliers’ running game in check early, and the Hokies had 17 second-chance points to Virginia’s 2 at halftime. They also outrebounded the Cavaliers 50-41 overall.