Shots were falling, stops were being made and the Mountaineers had all the momentum in their favor.
Then things began to quickly unravel at the seams, as the Hokies were able to storm back from a 17-point deficit to come away with a 87-82 victory in Blacksburg.
“We stopped," said junior guard Gary Browne. "We had it. We just lost to ourselves."
West Virginia was clicking on all cylinders at the start, using its uptempo style to its advantage to jump out on Virginia Tech within the first few minutes of the half.
But the tide started to shift with just a few minutes left to play in the opening half, and the Hokies came storming back. Following a Remi Dibo three with 2:54 to play in the half, Virginia Tech responded with a 12-1 run to cut the Mountaineer lead to five points heading into the locker room.
The big run came thanks in part to a WVU cold streak that locked the Mountaineers in a cold slump in which they missed their last four field goal attempts of the half, while the Hokies made four of their last six shots to close the gap.
It didn’t end there for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies opened the final half of play on a 13-1 run to pull ahead 49-42.
“Those are the kind of things we've got to fix," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins of his team's sloppy play. "If we fix those, we would have won this game. You have to be really dumb to have to lose to learn. Why can't we win and learn?"
West Virginia tried to make its way back into the game at times after that. Gary Browne’s second make from three-point range 10:39 to play drew the Mountaineers within two. But foul troubles and turnovers continued to kill a WVU team that shot the ball just 35 percent from the field throughout the game’s final 20 minutes.
Dibo pulled up from in front of the WVU bench for fourth make from 3-point range of the game to bring the Mountaineers within one before two Eron Harris free throws gave WVU its first lead since the 18:30 mark in the second half. But the Hokies wouldn’t go away, driving right down the court to draw a three-point play on Devin Williams’ fourth foul of the game.
The two teams would continue to go back and forth for a while longer, with five lead changes taking place over the course of the game’s final nine minutes, but Virginia Tech was able to roll with the punches it took from WVU down the stretch.
Trailing by one, West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten drove into the lane for what looked like a potentially easy layup before VT big man Cadarian Raines turned him away, registering his fifth block of the game before Adam Smith caught an outlet pass for a fast-break layup to pull the Hokies ahead by three and the Mountaineers would not take the lead again after that.
“We're never going to give up," Browne said. "We didn't do what we were supposed to do. We took possessions off, and that's how they got back in it."
Dibo led the Mountaineers with 17 points, including a number of shots from beyond the arc in the second half to keep WVU in the game. He was joined by Harris (16), Browne (15) and Staten (10).
Virginia Tech was led by Ben Emelogu's 22 points off the bench and Smith's 19 points.