Facebook Twitter

Fischer helps lead BYU to 80-77 victory over Virginia Tech in NIT

SHARE Fischer helps lead BYU to 80-77 victory over Virginia Tech in NIT
Probably the most impressive thing for me was to watch two teams, really late in the season, that want to keep playing. – BYU coach Dave Rose

PROVO — No doubt, BYU and Virginia Tech would have preferred playing in the NCAA tournament this weekend.

But the hard-fought battle between the two teams, the intense atmosphere and the rowdy crowd of 12,379 at the Marriott Center Friday night belied any disappointment about being in the National Invitation Tournament.

The No. 2 seed Cougars and No. 3 seed Virginia Tech staged their own version of March Madness, slugging it out for 40 minutes in a physical game that went down to the waning seconds.

In a thriller, BYU outlasted the Hokies 80-77 to advance to the NIT quarterfinals.

“Probably the most impressive thing for me was to watch two teams, really late in the season, that want to keep playing,” said Cougar coach Dave Rose. “In those kind of games, you’ve got to figure out how to make one or two plays.”

“It was really tough. You can tell that every game they’re in is going to be kind of a junkyard battle,” said guard Chase Fischer, who scored a game-high 24 points. “They’ve got some physical dudes and (Virginia Tech coach) Buzz Williams’ teams are really tough and they drive the ball really hard. It makes it hard to get rebounds. This is one that we had to grind it out.”

With the win, BYU (25-10) will meet the winner of No. 4 seed Creighton and No. 8 Wagner Tuesday (7 p.m., MST) at the Marriott Center.

Creighton and Wagner play Saturday (10 a.m., MST, ESPN).

Virginia Tech, an Atlantic Coast Conference team that traveled 1,900 miles after playing an overtime game in the first round Wednesday night, finished its season with a 20-15 record.

“They’re really aggressive. That’s their style of play,” guard Kyle Collinsworth, who scored 18 points and dished out 10 assists, said of the Hokies. “That’s what makes them so tough.”

BYU’s Zac Seljaas scored 11 points and Nick Emery added 10.

Seth Allen scored 22 points to lead Virginia Tech and Zach LeDay added 17 points and 14 rebounds.

The Cougars certainly weren’t ready for the season to end.

“When we lost to Gonzaga and we knew we weren’t going to make the (NCAA) tournament, there are two options,” Collinsworth said. “You can put your head down, feel bad for yourself and quit or create a new opportunity. I think that’s what our team did. This is a new opportunity. Maybe in the (NCAA) tournament we play one game and be done. Here (in the NIT), we might get to play five.”

Over the final six minutes, Fischer scored BYU’s final 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, a steal and a layup. He knocked down two free throws with 4.6 remaining to seal the victory.

With 9.2 seconds and the Cougars clinging to a 78-75 lead, Virginia Tech had the ball when one of the referees inadvertently blew his whistle. The official then acknowledged Williams’ call for a timeout. According to the rules, coach can’t call a live ball timeout. But because of the inadvertent whistle, the timeout was granted.

Rose was livid. He stomped out onto the floor, crossed midcourt and confronted the officials to express his displeasure.

“The game got a little heated and Coach got a little animated,” Fischer said.

Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear missed a free throw with 5.1 seconds, then, while trying to miss the second attempt intentionally, the Hokies committed a lane violation. That set up Fischer's final two free throws.

BYU struggled to stop Virginia Tech’s penetration all night. While the Hokies made only 5 of 23 3-pointers, they scored 42 points in the paint. Virginia Tech also outrebounded BYU 45-34.

“That was our challenge — getting them to miss and getting the rebound,” Rose said.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com