"He's got plenty of talent, no doubt about that," Dowdell said. "But we could by looking at the film see that he might struggle if we threw off his rhythm. We wanted to make him think out there."
Dowdell scored 23 points and A.D. Vassallo had 19 to help Virginia Tech (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 24 AP) beat Georgia Tech 73-65 on Sunday.
The Hokies (16-5, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won three straight, six of eight and 12 of 14. Georgia Tech (13-7, 2-5) has lost three straight to drop into 10th place in the ACC.
Virginia Tech's biggest lead was only 10 points, coming on Coleman Collins' dunk with 17:43 remaining, but the Hokies never allowed the Yellow Jackets to pull closer than three after Crittenton hit a 3-pointer 2:24 later.
The backcourt of Dowdell and Jamon Gordon combined for 15 of Virginia Tech's 19 assists.
Vassallo, starting just his fourth game and first since a Jan. 1 win at Richmond, tied his career-high in rebounds with 10. His long 3-pointer from the right wing made it 56-47 with less than 9 minutes remaining.
"The difference for us wasn't just contesting shots," Vassallo said. "It was contesting the perimeter and then packing the lane to give them nothing easy inside."
Dowdell hit a 3 on the previous possession to give the Hokies a nine-point lead. A senior guard whose began the game with the ACC's third-best scoring average at 21.3 was coming off a 30-point effort in a seven-point win at Miami on Tuesday.
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg credited Dowdell, the ACC's third-leading scorer, with frustrating Crittenton, the Yellow Jackets' best point guard since Jarrett Jack, and Collins with shutting down center Ra'Sean Dickey.
"They've got so many good players," Greenberg said. "We didn't know who they were going to start. They've got a young team ... but teams develop identities, and it's a process of developing identities."
Crittenton, who scored 12 points on a 5-for-19 performance, has missed 30 of his last 39 shots from the field. He had just one turnover with four assists and four steals, but Georgia Tech's ball movement was sluggish and predictable.
Anthony Morrow had 18 points to lead the Yellow Jackets, who began the game with the ACC's best field-goal percentage at 50.6 but finished with a season-worst 36.6.
Freshman forward Thaddeus Young finished with a season-low six points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Georgia Tech missed 17 attempts in the paint, including 12 layups, but nobody struggled more than the 6-foot-10 Dickey, who went scoreless for the first time since he played just 13 minutes in an easy win over Penn State on Nov. 28.
Despite averaging 10.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in starting the last 10 games, Dickey went 0-for-3 with no rebounds in 19 minutes.
"When he gets shots, he usually makes shots," Greenberg said. "So it was just a great road win."
Georgia Tech never led after Mouhammad Faye's basket in the first minute of the game. So much for the emotional ploy of Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt, who had names removed from the back of players' uniforms.
"I think sometimes we might get a little caught up if you individual game isn't going right," Hewitt said. "It's not a selfish team. It's just a team that's got to mature."
Virginia Tech took a 3-1 lead in the series and improved to 7-2 overall against the Yellow Jackets. The Hokies, coming off a season-best shooting percentage of 58.1 at Miami, hit 59.5.
Young, the prized recruit in Hewitt's freshman class, senses that all the players and coaches are worried about the poor defense.
"It's some misreads, and we have to play harder," Young said. "We just have to pick it up to another level."
Virginia Tech's Deron Washington, who hit the game-winning free throw against Georgia Tech with 0.5 seconds remaining last year in Blacksburg, worked in a reserve role for the first time after missing a class recently. He finished with seven points.