BLACKSBURG, Va. — Georgia Southern coach Charlton Young had spent more than a month mixing and matching players and juggling lineups in hopes of finding a group with a little bit of chemistry.
On Saturday, he found the perfect combination.
Behind C.J. Reed, who scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, Georgia Southern never trailed in stunning Virginia Tech 78-73 in the second round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
The Eagles (4-5) jumped out to an 8-0 lead from the start and never looked back, notching their first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference team and their first over a team from a Bowl Championship Series league since 1992, when they knocked off South Carolina.
"To be honest with you, we've had some chemistry issues on our team," Young said. "We've made some adjustments in terms of personnel. Guys have bought into their role.
"We were picked as one of the top teams in the Southern Conference from the beginning, but we lost two key pieces — one to academics and one in the summer. So we had two starters gone, we've got two reserves who are now starters, and we've got two guys who probably wouldn't have been playing now just trying to get into the rotation. . We have some talent in our program. We're just trying to come together, and tonight (Saturday), we did."
The Eagles did so in large part because of some outstanding 3-point shooting. They hit a season-high 11 3-pointers in 26 attempts, with Reed, freshman guard Cleon Roberts and junior Eric Ferguson combining for all of them. They also outrebounded the Virginia Tech 41-38 and held the Hokies to just 39.7 percent shooting from the floor (27 of 68).
Behind Reed, the Eagles went on a 12-0 run that spanned both halves and took a 42-27 lead. His 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the first half started the run and then he hit a 3-pointer and a layup 18:10 left to cap the run.
The Hokies sliced the lead to 74-71 on a 3-pointer by Jarell Eddie with 54.3 seconds left, and a missed 3-pointer by Reed on the Eagles' next possession gave the Hokies a chance to tie.
But Erick Green's 3-pointer with 23 seconds to go was off the mark, and Virginia Tech fouled Cameron Baskerville with 19 seconds remaining. Baskerville nailed both free throws to give the Eagles a 76-71 lead, and after a Green layup cut the lead to 76-73 with 14 seconds left, Baskerville hit two more free throws with 13 seconds remaining to seal the game. The Hokies didn't score again.
"It was just one of those nights," Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. "I was fearful that we would have one of those. We were shooting the basketball so well, and I was just fearful that one of those nights was going to come. When that happens, you've got to be strong on the defensive end of the floor, and those guys made shots. I thought a lot of those shots were contested, but they made them.
"When you're 8-1, you can't just show up. Just because you've been winning some games and playing well, you can't just show up. This is a young group, and the water is uncharted. They've got to learn to play how to play like that."
Four of the Eagles' five starters shot 50 percent or better from the floor, as Georgia Southern shot 43.9 percent (25 of 57). Reed hit 8 of 16 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from beyond 3-point arc. Roberts added 20 points, hitting 7 of 12 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Ferguson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"It's huge," Reed said of the win. "But at the same time, we know that the goal is to win the SoCon (Southern Conference). So this could help us and prepare us, knowing that we can beat a team of this caliber, to beat the teams in our conference, like Davidson and the College of Charleston."
Virginia Tech (8-2) got 28 points from Green, who tied his career high. He has scored at least 20 points in all 10 of the Hokies' games this season. Eddie added 21 points for Virginia Tech.