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Sitake helps cheer BYU on to NIT victory over Virginia Tech

PROVO — At the start of the second half, BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake, wearing a royal blue Cougar baseball shirt, and wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon, sat in the student section, known as “Roar of Cougars,” at the Marriott Center Friday night.

They danced, they cheered, they chanted.

And they, as part of a crowd of 12,379, watched BYU defeat Virginia Tech, 80-77, in an NIT second-round game Friday night.

Cougar coach Dave Rose loved the atmosphere.

“It’s probably better (than expected),” Rose said. “It was awesome. The crowd was so good from start to finish. It was a large crowd and they were loud and they came to support the guys. I’m glad we were able to send them home happy tonight.”

Rose didn’t notice Sitake’s presence in the student section. But he appreciated the support.

“Good for him. We’ve had a conversation and he told me he loves basketball," Rose said. "He told me he was a great basketball player as a younger guy. His body kind of grew out of basketball. He told me he’d be here for all the games he could. Those students must have had a good time.”

Guard Kyle Collinsworth spotted Sitake in the crowd.

“He hit me when he gave me a high five,” he said. “I was like, ‘This guy is kind of strong.’ Then I saw who it was.”

Fischer praised the fans who turned out Friday.

“This is a great tournament,” he said. “I want to thank our fans because it’s the loudest I’ve heard (the Marriott Center) all year.”

“The crowd was such a big part of our ability to finish and stay motivated and aggressive,” Rose said.

FREE-THROW TURNAROUND: BYU made only 5 of 11 free throws in the first half. But in the second half, the Cougars knocked down 19 of 23 from the charity stripe.

“I think we calmed down a little bit. We were a little jittery at the line in the first half,” Fischer said. “We were good down the stretch.”

TIP-INS: Virginia Tech outscored BYU in the paint 42-32 … The Hokies also outscored the Cougars in bench points 44-17 … Virginia Tech is the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to visit the Marriott Center since 2009. That year, Wake Forest defeated BYU.