BLACKSBURG, Va. —
With the game in its waning moments and his team in a position to pull off a rare victory over an ACC opponent, UNC-Greensboro head coach Wes Miller knew exactly what he wanted to do.
He wanted to get the ball into the hands of his big guys — and they delivered for him.
UNCG post players Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke combined for 33 points, with Locke scoring six of his 15 points in the final two minutes to lift UNCG to a stunning 55-52 road victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Locke’s basket with 1:23 left gave the Spartans a 50-49 lead, and they held on down the stretch. Cain scored a game-high 18 points to lead UNCG.
The Spartans (7-7), who had lost to Presbyterian by 21 points on Dec. 3, rallied from an 11-point, second-half deficit to record just their second victory ever over an ACC team. They are 2-50 against ACC competition. Their only other victory over an ACC team came against Georgia Tech during the 2007-08 season.
“We’ve been fighting through adversity all year,” Cain said. “Our coaches do a good job of making our practices tough. This was a good win for us. This shows we can compete with anybody.”
“These are the types of wins that are big for programs like ours that are trying to rise up with a bunch of young kids,” Miller said. “It should give us a lot of belief going into conference play that we can play with anybody. I’m really proud of my group and really happy for our university and the people that support us. It’s a big win for us to beat an ACC school.”
UNCG trailed 43-32 after two free throws by Virginia Tech’s Ben Emelogu with 10:06 left in the game. But the Spartans went on an 18-6 run over the next 9:23, with Cain scoring nine of his 18 in that span. The run ended with Locke’s basket that gave the Spartans their first lead since the 19:47 mark of the second half.
Virginia Tech’s Marshall Wood missed a 3-pointer with 1:07 left, and Locke went to work again for the Spartans, scoring on a layup with 34 seconds remaining to give UNCG a 52-49 lead.
“We wanted to go to Kayel and Kyle late in the game,” Miller said. “They were commanding quite a bit of attention, but it’s not a secret. Anyone who scouts us knows that we’re an inside-out team. Kyle and Kayel are two of our top three leading scorers, and by the end of the year, they will be our top two leading scorers.
“We play through them, and we wanted to do that the whole game, but we really looked to do that down the stretch. It got simple. We started clearing out a side and dumping it down to them.”
The Hokies got a free throw from Wood with 17 seconds left that sliced the UNCG lead to 52-50, and they then fouled the Spartans’ Drew Parker, who made the second of two free throws that gave UNCG a 53-50 lead.
Virginia Tech (7-5) had a chance to tie the game with 10.1 seconds left. Devin Wilson made a layup and was fouled, but he missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 53.
RJ White hit two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to give the Spartans a 55-52 lead. Wood then missed a 3-pointer with three seconds left that would have tied the game.
“I think our depth is catching up with us,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “Down the stretch, we got tired and weren’t able to get the stops. We were short on some shots. But that can’t be an excuse. We’ve got to play better.
“We’ve got to win it. We’ve got to find a way to close it out. We’ve got to make the plays and get the stops. We’ve got to get the offensive execution. We’ve got to make free throws. We’ve got to finish the game.”
Cain hit 8 of 14 from the floor and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who battled the bigger Hokies even on the boards (34 each). Locke made 4 of 9, but hit 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. The two combined to hit 12 of 23 from the floor on a day when UNCG shot just 36.5 percent (19 of 52).
The Hokies got 14 points from Wood, who made just 4 of 13 from the floor on a day when the Hokies made just 36 percent of their shots (18 of 50). Emelogu and Joey van Zegeren added 11 each.
Virginia Tech’s leading scorer, Jarell Eddie, made just 1 of 12 from the floor and scored four points.
He had been averaging a little more than 18 per game and had scored in double figures in every game this season.
He scored 28 points in the Hokies’ victory over UNGC last season.
“To win games like this on the road, you need some help,” Miller said. “Watching the film, Jarell Eddie’s been fantastic this year. He’s been defended well and still made the shots. I thought Nick Paulos did a tremendous job of chasing him around screens and contesting his shots. But I’ve seen people do that to Jarell Eddie and he still knocked them down. So I think he helped us out by not having one of his better nights.”
Both teams played without starters because of injuries. Tevon Saddler, who was averaging 11.8 points per game, sat out for the Spartans (undisclosed), while the Hokies were without guard Adam Smith, who missed the game with a calf injury. Smith was averaging 13.1 points per game.