"Winning beats the crap out of losing."
Those were the words of the always-eloquent Seth Greenberg after the Virginia Tech Hokies hammered the Miami Hurricanes 65-47 in the opening game of the ACC tournament.
Winning isn't something the Hokies have much familiarity with as of late. Having lost six of their last seven games, including a brutal three-game stretch against Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State to close out the regular season, winning seemed like something the Virginia Tech Hokies had forgotten how to do.
Their performance on the court Monday showed otherwise.
Virginia Tech's stars both showed up to lead the Hokies into the second round of the ACC tournament, where they will face the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday. A.D. Vassallo had 14 points and eight rebounds. Malcolm Delaney scored 17 points, 14 of which came from the free-throw line.
But the spark for Virginia Tech didn't come from Vassallo or Delaney, both third team All-ACC players. It was J.T.Thompson's play off the bench that gave the Hokies the momentum needed to pull ahead of the Hurricanes, who refused to go away early in the second half.
Four of Thompson's 12 points, including a monster put-back dunk, came during a crucial 14-0 run that gave the Hokies a 20-point lead with 3:52 remaining in the second half.
"He was the Energizer bunny for us today," Greenberg said. "He gave us an energy off the bench that was special."
Thompson's energy was felt on both sides of the court, and it was contagious.
The Hokies turned in one their best defensive efforts of the season, not allowing a single Hurricane player, including first team All-ACC star Jack McClinton, to score in double digits.
Virginia Tech's defense held Miami to 34.6 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from behind the arc (12 percent below their season average). The Hokies also outrebounded the Hurricanes by 17 boards.
In other words, Virginia Tech outright dominated the Miami Hurricanes.
Both teams came into the game on the wrong side of the bubble, with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. Only one team, however, played with an intensity that showed they knew what was at stake.
"They whipped us and were much more aggressive," Miami coach Frank Haith said.
For Miami, it was a bad day to take off.
For Virginia Tech, it was good day to remember what it's like to win again.
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