Virginia Tech rallies to advance to ACC tournament quarterfinals

Hokies use 21-0 run to defeat Orange

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Courtesy: Hokiesports.com

Taylor Emery scored a game-high 28 points and spearheaded a huge Virginia Tech run in the second half to rally the Hokies to an 85-70 victory over Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Tournament played Friday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum.

The win marked Tech’s second straight over the Orange this season and moved the Hokies to 18-12 overall. Syracuse fell to 21-8.

“For us, this was a terrific win for the program,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said. “We’re learning how to win these tough games. These kids are really doing a tremendous job of stepping up, and even though they’re not playing their natural positions, they all stepped up and did what they had to do for us to get a win today.”

Tech, which entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed, trailed by 14 at points halftime, but the Hokies rallied, using a 21-0 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Regan Magarity and Emery scored the final four points of the third, slicing the Syracuse lead to 65-56 entering the fourth period, and then the Hokies scored the first 17 points of the fourth.

Emery scored five points and freshman guard Aisha Sheppard buried two 3-pointers in that run, as the Hokies hit six of their first eight shots to start the final period. Emery’s basket with 4:47 remaining closed the run and gave Tech a 73-65 lead.

“We really just kept our poise,” Emery said. “We kept telling each other, ‘We don’t want to go back to Blacksburg tonight.’ So we really came out there and fought for each other. We fought for our teammates. We fought for our coaches. We just started putting everything together and it was really exciting to see everyone being able to work together and get a win.”

Syracuse ended Tech’s run with a free throw from Isis Young with 4:40 remaining, but the Hokies scored the next six points. In all, the Hokies’ run was 26-1 over a nearly 10-minute stretch.

Tech’s defense played arguably a more important role, as Brooks switched to a box-and-one on Syracuse point guard Tiana Mangakahia to start the second half. The Orange never got into a flow in the second half and appeared to panic in the fourth quarter, when they missed all 16 of their shots from the floor. The Orange’s only fourth-quarter points came on five free throws.

“Part of it was really good defense, and part was they got in desperation mode and had to launch 3s,” Brooks said. “They kind of went away from their offense. That’s part of it, but part of it is we did play tremendous defense in that fourth quarter.”

Tech shot 47.6 percent and hit 72.7 percent in the final period. For the game, Emery connected on 11 of 20 from the floor, hitting two 3-pointers, and she also finished with nine rebounds.

Sheppard, who started for the second straight game, scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 16 from the floor. All five field goals were 3-pointers. Alexis Jean added 11 points, while Magarity finished with 9 points and 13 rebounds.

Mangakahia led the Orange with 17 points and nine assists.

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