PROVO – Behind Chase Fischer’s 24 points, BYU men’s basketball team beat Virginia Tech 80-77 in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament Friday at the Marriott Center.
“It was a great game with a great crowd,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “I think that probably the most impressive thing for me was to watch two teams that are late in their seasons that want to keep playing. Both teams kept battling.”
Fischer was one of four Cougars to score in double figures, adding six rebounds and three assists. Kyle Collinsworth recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. Zac Seljaas and Nick Emery also scored in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Kyle Davis led the Cougars with eight rebounds.
No. 2 seeded BYU (25-10, 13-5 WCC) outshot the No. 3 seeded Hokies (20-15, 10-8 ACC) from behind the arc, shooting 47.1 percent to 21.7 percent. Despite trailing for seven minutes of the second half and 10 lead changes, the Cougars played solid defense in the final minutes to close out the victory.
The final minute of play began with BYU holding a 77-75 advantage and Fischer added three free throws in the final 30 seconds to help the Cougars hold on for the win.
BYU got off to a hot start with a 7-0 run thanks to 3-point baskets from Fischer and Emery. Virginia Tech scored two baskets before Davis drove past his man for a layup to make the score 9-4 in favor of the Cougars.
Near the 15 minute mark, Collinsworth found Corbin Kaufusi in the paint for a dunk, but Virginia Tech answered with back-to-back scores. On the following BYU possession, Emery sank a 3-pointer, beginning a 7-2 BYU run that put the Cougars up 20-11.
The teams traded baskets and the Hokies cut the lead to five before Jordan Chatman scored to give BYU a 24-17 lead. With 6:45 remaining in the half, Virginia Tech tied the game at 24 after a 7-0 run. Davis ended a four minute scoring drought for the Cougars with a bucket from underneath the basket and BYU led 26-24 with 6:13 remaining.
With 5:22 left in the half, the Hokies scored to go ahead 29-28, taking their first lead of the game.
The lead continued to change sides before Fischer sank a 3-pointer to put BYU ahead by four. Virginia Tech answered with a 3-pointer, before Seljaas knocked down a deep ball to give BYU a 38-34 lead at the half.
In the opening minutes of the second half, BYU held tight to a four point lead before the Hokies tied the game at 47 with 13:45 remaining in the game. Seljaas knocked down a 3 to help the Cougars retake the lead with 12:30 remaining.
At the 11:45 mark, Virginia Tech jumped ahead with a layup, but Collinsworth tied the game at 54 with a pair of free throws. With 8:35 to go in the game, Seljaas hit three free throws to put the Cougars ahead, but the Hokies quickly responded with a 3-pointer to go ahead 61-60.
The teams continued to fight for the lead with neither team showing signs of giving in. Fischer hit a 3-pointer with 5:35 left to put BYU ahead 71-70 but the Hokies nailed another deep ball on the ensuing possession to stay in control. A steal by Seljaas set up another 3 by Fischer and BYU led 75-73 with 3:51 remaining.
Less than a minute later, Fischer grabbed a steal and scored on a breakaway to put BYU up by four. Fischer scored eight points in the final five minutes to help the Cougars hold on for the 80-77 victory.
“When we lost to Gonzaga and we knew we weren’t going to make the tournament, we had two options: put your head down and feel bad for yourself and quit or create a new opportunity,” Collinsworth said. “That’s something I’ve embraced over the past couple of years with hurting my knee. I’ve found new opportunities and I think that’s what the team is doing now. Maybe in the tournament we would only play one game and be done, but here we may be able to play five. We’re here and we’re taking it one game at a time.”
BYU advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT to face Saturday’s winner of Wagner vs. Creighton. The game will be played on Tuesday, Mar. 22, at 7 p.m. at the Marriott Center.
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