Devin Wilson and Virginia Tech thought they had it. For the first 36 minutes, they did.
But after No. 14 Virginia completed its comeback, the Hokies were left to lament a lead that slipped away.
Justin Anderson and Joe Harris made consecutive 3-pointers about a minute apart to cap the Cavaliers' rally from an 11-point deficit in the second half of their 57-53 victory Tuesday night.
"The last 2 or 3 minutes, we gave up way too many easy shots," said Wilson, a freshman point guard. "They had some uncontested 3s, and they were confident enough to knock them down. We needed to do a better job of making things tougher on them."
Harris' 3-pointer with 2:39 to play put the Cavaliers in front for the first time since early in the game. Anderson added another with 1:45 remaining for a 51-46 lead, and Virginia was never threatened again.
"They keep coming at you and coming at you, and they're used to winning. That helps when you're coming down the stretch in a close game," second-year Hokies coach James Johnson said. "They're used to winning and used to making plays. They've got guys who can make plays. We should have had that one, but give them a lot of credit. They made the plays, and we didn't."
The Cavaliers also got the kind of breaks winning teams get. Anderson had missed 19 of his last 20 attempts from 3-point range before connecting twice late in the game.
"We were very fortunate," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "I feel like we stole one because they probably outplayed us the majority of the game."
The Cavaliers (22-5, 13-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed most of the way but outscored the Hokies 23-6 after falling behind 40-29 with just more than 14 minutes remaining. It was Virginia's 10th victory in a row and it matched the school's best start in ACC play. The 1980-81 team was also 13-1.
Malcolm Brogdon led Virginia with 12 points and London Perrantes had 11.
The Hokies (9-16, 2-11), who ended a 10-game losing streak in their previous outing on Saturday against Miami, got 13 points each from Wilson and Joey Van Zegeren. They lost their fifth in a row in the series, but not before putting a huge scare into their state rivals, who have been on a roll.
"We played with heart. We came out with fight," Van Zegeren said. "We were well prepared. We were mentally very well prepared. I think everybody was focused to win this game. If we bring that to every game, it will help us a lot."
Trailing 46-42 and scoreless for 4½ minutes, the Cavaliers finally broke through on Anderson's 3-pointer with 3:26 to play. Perrantes then knocked the ball away from Van Zegeren inside, and the resulting possession ended with Harris' 3-pointer with 2:39 left, just his second field goal of the game.
Virginia led 48-46, and after the Cavaliers defense forced Ben Emelogu into a long 3-point attempt to beat the shot clock, Anderson connected again from the same spot on the left wing.
"I think we're resilient," said Brogdon, who shot 3 for 11. "Even if shots don't fall, we've gotten accustomed to winning. Therefore, we find ways to win."
The Hokies led 28-21 at halftime and extended their lead to 30-21 on Van Zegeren's dunk to start the second half. Virginia then scored six in a row, pulling to 30-27 on Anthony Gill's stick-back.
Almost before the Hokies' fans could panic, though, Emelogu hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and, as the crowd cheered, Virginia Tech kept it going, putting together a 10-2 run to lead 40-29.
Five points by Perrantes and 3-pointers by Harris and Brogdon highlighted a 13-3 burst that pulled the Cavaliers to 43-42. Van Zegeren's dunk and a free throw by Emelogu gave the Hokies a 46-42 edge, setting up the exciting finish.
Virginia Tech trailed 14-13 until Emelogu's free throw sparked a 9-0 run. Wilson had five of the points, including just his 10th 3-pointer of the season, and the Hokies opened a 22-14 lead.
They went 6:29 without a point but never lost the lead because the Cavaliers were in the midst of going 6:53 between field goals. Gill ended that with a three-point play 4:59 before halftime, and Virginia's only basket the rest of the way was a 3-pointer by Brogdon at the halftime buzzer.
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