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Steve DeShazo's column on the Maryland-Virginia Tech game
BLACKSBURG--It was fitting that the last two Virginia Tech players who handled the ball in last night's 67-64 victory over Maryland were Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell. Gordon controlled a loose ball and fired it to Dowdell, who dribbled away the final seconds of a game that was critical to both teams' NCAA tournament hopes.
The debate will go on until the Hokies host Virginia on Feb. 10: which team has the better backcourt. It would have been virtually impossible for Dowdell and Gordon to upstage yesterday's exploits by the Cavaliers' J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary against Wake Forest, but Tech's two seniors didn't do badly.
Dowdell, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week, scored a game-high 19 points. Gordon suffered through a 4-for-17 shooting night,
but filled up the statistic sheet with 16 points, seven rebounds and six steals.
It didn't quite match Reynolds' 40-point outing against Wake Forest (supplemented by 19 from Singletary, the ACC's leading scorer). But it was enough to push the Hokies (14-5) to 4-1 in the league--and closer to NCAA lock status for the first time in a decade.
"It's very comforting" to have them around, Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "Those guys want to win so bad. There were not a lot of X's and O's in those timeouts. It was, 'We've got to get stops.' Those guys showed some toughness. The games we weren't able to win a year ago, we're winning now."
And there's no mystery about why. The Hokies' chances rest squarely on the shoulders of their guards, who had their way for most of the night against a Maryland lineup that often featured two freshmen in the backcourt (Greivis Vasquez and Potomac High School graduate Eric Hayes).
"Any time you play against players who aren't that experienced, you try to take advantage of them," said Dowdell, who had four of Tech's eight points in overtime.