GREENSBORO, N.C. — Malcolm Delaney scored 15 points and Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech 59-43 on Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Jeff Allen added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Hokies (20-10), who never trailed.
They shot nearly 47 percent on 22-of-47 shooting, raced out to an early 19-point lead and made it stand, snapping the irksome two-game losing streak that brought their NCAA tournament candidacy into question.
Virginia Tech gets another chance to make a case for a spot in the field of 68 on Friday night against third-seeded Florida State in the quarterfinals.
Glen Rice Jr. scored 14 points to lead 11th-seeded Georgia Tech (13-18). The Yellow Jackets hit a few late shots to avoid their season-low shooting percentage — they finished 17 of 53 (32 percent) — but their two-game winning streak was halted.
Eric Green had 11 points for the Hokies, who took a decisive step toward their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007. It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Virginia Tech would make the field nearly two weeks ago when it knocked off then-No. 1 Duke.
But consecutive head-scratching losses to Boston College and Clemson appeared to place the Hokies back on the bubble. According to an unofficial online replication of the RPI formula, coach Seth Greenberg’s team entered at No. 64 against the 85th-best schedule.
Delaney, an all-ACC guard who’s second in the league in scoring, seemed to put the Hokies on his shoulders early in this one. He blew past the Yellow Jackets for a layup while being bumped on one possession, then pulled up over them for a pretty jumper the next time down the court. Delaney’s layup made it 12-2 and put the Hokies up by double figures to stay.
The expected scoring duel between Delaney and Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert never materialized. Shumpert, the ACC’s fourth-leading scorer, missed six of his first seven shots and finished 4 of 14 with 12 points. One of his few highlights was a pocket-picking steal from Delaney in the second half that led to a breakaway dunk and, for a few seconds, pulled Georgia Tech within 18.
The Hokies methodically built their lead during the opening 13 minutes, opening the game with a 15-2 run and pushing it to 30-11 on Tyrone Garland’s three-point play with 7:41 left before the break. Allen gave Virginia Tech its first 20-point lead when his baseline jumper with 14 1/2 minutes remaining stretched it to 43-23.