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No. 12 Virginia Tech 61, La Salle 56

February 23, 1996

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Ace Custis scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds Thursday night to lead No. 12 Virginia Tech to a 61-56 victory over La Salle.

The Hokies (20-3, 11-2 Atlantic 10) were playing their first game since losing to top-ranked Massachusetts Saturday, while the Explorers (6-20, 3-10) were coming off Sunday’s upset of George Washington.

Trailing 48-43 with under eight minutes to play, La Salle went on a 6-0 run to take a 49-48 lead with 6:19 left.

But Tech’s Damon Watlington scored five consecutive points and gave the Hokies the lead for good, 53-49 with five minutes left.

The Explorers pulled to 59-56 on a layup by Mike Gizzi with just 45 seconds remaining. Shawn Good missed a runner with 0:20 to play, but Jim Jackson grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Hokies, who shoot 68.1 percent from the free-throw line, made their first 15 foul shots and finished 19-of-20.

Gizzi scored 19 points to lead La Salle, which has lost nine of 11, and Romaine Haywood added 18. Jackson had 12 for Tech.

In the battle of Shawn Smiths, the Hokies’ Smith scored 17 points while La Salle’s Smith had eight.

La Salle opened the second half on an 8-0 run to take a 33-27 lead with 17:28 remaining, but Tech answered with a 9-0 run, capped by Jackson’s three, to pull ahead 36-33 with about 15 minutes left.

Gizzi finally stopped the run when he sank 1-of-2 from the line after a technical foul was called on Good for shoving Gizzi.

Virginia Tech led 27-26 at the half on two free throws by Smith.

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