After starting ACC play with two home victories over N.C. State and #4 Virginia, the Virginia Tech Hokies travelled to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the #14 Duke Blue Devils. There was some hope that maybe the Hokies could keep it close despite playing on the road in one of the toughest environments in college basketball.
However, this was not the Hokies’ day.
The game was over by halftime as Virginia Tech fell at Duke 82-58 with the margin of victory looking worse at halftime when the Hokies were down 27 after Duke put up 50 in the first half. Virginia Tech found their rhythm offensively in the second half and outscored Duke by 3, but the 27-point lead halftime was plenty to allow Blue Devil fans to relax in the second half.
Duke got off to a fast start making their first four threes against the Hokies while Virginia Tech struggled to stay up and keep it within 10 for more than a few minutes. Duke’s impressive start shooting the basketball put the Hokies in a big hole that they were never able to get out of with Duke’s Marshall Plumlee having a big game down low with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Virginia Tech’s offense improved in the second half as the Hokies were able to get Zach LeDay and Kerry Blackshear the ball more on the interior. LeDay was quite effective in the second half and ended the day with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block while Blackshear had an up-and-down game with 12 points and 5 rebounds before fouling out.
LeDay and Blackshear have given the Hokies’ their most formidable frontcourt in years, but the Hokies will need to give the duo some better help in the coming games. LeDay and Blackshear had a fairly good day shooting the basketball with LeDay going 6 for 11 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line while Blackshear was 6 of 12 from the field.
LeDay and Blackshear give the Hokies’ their best frontcourt in years, and are a big reason why Virginia Tech fans can have dreams of postseason play in 2016.
Arguably the biggest reason for today’s blowout was Virginia Tech’s struggles shooting the basketball as they shot 37.5% from the field while only making 1 of 12 three-pointers. The backcourt in particular struggled shooting the basketball with Virginia Tech guards shooting 1 of 9 from beyond the arc and 21.4% (6 of 28) overall from the field.
When your guards shoot only 21.4% from the field, you have no chance to win basketball games. Part of the issue was the fact that the Hokies had some poor shot selections that must improve while the Hokies also must improve their finishing touch when attacking the rim. Seth Allen has the ability to take over a game, but he kept the ball too much and took difficult, quick shots instead of letting some plays develop.
Jalen Hudson was also aggressive throughout the game attacking the rim and drawing some fouls, but struggled from beyond the arc missing 4 three-pointers while also not getting it done at the free-throw with a 4-for-7 day at the charity stripe. Justin Bibbs once again had issues creating opportunities for himself and missed the few he had as he was 1-for-4 from the field with 3 points including 0-for-2 from beyond the arc.
The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that the sky is falling, but that is completely inaccurate. Virginia Tech could not get in rhythm early, and the Hokies had one of their worst shooting performances of the season. In the second half, Virginia Tech seemed to slow the game down and feed LeDay and Blackshear, improving the Hokies’ offensive performance and allowing more organization on the defensive end.
You also can’t forget that the Hokies were playing Duke on the road in Cameron Indoor in only their second road game of the season. Duke was firing on all cylinders from the start, and put the Hokies in a big hole early thanks to some great shooting from beyond the arc. The Hokies showed their youth trying to force the issue when going into a big hole early on the road that allowed Duke to make that hole even deeper.
Virginia Tech will have to improve their free-throw shooting after shooting 68.2% from the line, but that still isn’t that bad given the Cameron Indoor atmosphere. Virginia Tech also did get outrebounded 42-33, but only 10-8 in offensive rebounds, which is also an improvement from recent games. Virginia Tech’s 15 turnovers are disappointing, but the Hokies also forced 13 turnovers and had 11 assists with no Hokie having more than 3.
A 24-point loss is always disappointing, but the Hokies played fairly well in the second half and won’t have to play in as tough of an environment on the road the rest of the season. Yes, the loss is humbling, but Hokie fans still have plenty of reason to dream about postseason play in 2016.