Entering Sunday with a 4-2 record in ACC play, the Virginia Tech Hokies were hoping to add a second signature home victory against the #2 North Carolina Tar Heels after beating a Virginia that was ranked fourth at the time at the beginning of ACC play.
Tipoff was moved up to 3pm and with many fans who bought tickets not being able to attend, Virginia Tech let in as many students as they could in a line that went from the east side of Cassell Coliseum to Lane Stadium.
The environment in Cassell Coliseum was great and the grit and toughness the Hokies showed was fantastic, but that was not enough for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies put up a valiant effort, but the North Carolina Tar Heels’ talent showed as UNC took down Virginia Tech 75-70. The Hokies were down by as much as 20 in the first half, but even led briefly in the second half while not falling behind by more than 6 or 7 in the second half.
The Hokies struggled on defense early, but did better as the game went on and played great defense on the perimeter with the Tar Heels shooting an atrocious 3-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Hokies actually had a decent day from beyond the arc shooting 8-of-20 from the three-point line with six different players making at least one three.
North Carolina dominated the glass as they outrebounded the Hokies 48-33 while winning the offensive rebounding margin 20-6. Some of the Hokies’ rebounding struggles were either due to mismatches in the post or the athleticism, length, and size of guys like Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks compared to Zach LeDay, Shane Henry, and Kerry Blackshear.
The Hokies also had some issues protecting the basketball with 14 turnovers in the game while North Carolina only had 7. Virginia Tech also shot under 70% from the free-throw line with Blackshear having an off day at the line going 3-of-7 from the charity stripe.
Overall, there is plenty to be happy about as the Hokies proved that they are at least a NIT-caliber team.
Zach LeDay was once again the leader for the Hokies with another strong game as he had 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and shot 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. LeDay may be starting to make a case to receive at least some sort of recognition from the ACC as someone that could make the third team this season with his great play.
LeDay has been the hugely surprising breakout of the year in the ACC with Virginia Tech’s opponents unable to slow him down.
Kerry Blackshear came close to having a huge game if he would’ve shot better than 3-of-7 from the free-throw line, but Blackshear had a solid game with 12 points and 4 rebounds. The freshman big man has had some bigger games against some tough teams including the Tar Heels and Duke.
Blackshear is going to be a very good player for the Hokies over his four years and that showed again against UNC.
Seth Allen had 11 points and Jalen Hudson had 12 points but the duo didn’t have a great shooting day with Hudson going 6-of-16 from the field and Allen going only 2-of-11 from the field. Hudson made some big shots while Allen was able to find ways to get to the free-throw line and made 6-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Allen also was effective on the glass with 5 rebounds along with 4 assists and 2 steals while Hudson also did a solid job of crashing the boards with 4 defensive rebounds. Allen and Hudson are starting to play better and will be valuable when Virginia Tech plays Louisville.
Justin Bibbs didn’t seem to get going as he had 6 points on 2-of-5 shooting including 1-for4 shooting from deep, but Bibbs will be ready to bounce back. Devin Wilson had a solid game with 5 points including a big three that cut the lead to 6 before halftime along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
Justin Robinson had one of his worse games in recent weeks with only 1 point and 2 assists, but brought plenty of energy. Satchel Pierce and Shane Henry combined for 4 points and 1 rebound in a game that was not their best, but not too bad.
Overall, the Hokies showed the tremendous progress they’ve made under Buzz Williams while the Hokie fans once again believe in their basketball team. Cassell Coliseum is no longer an easy place for ACC teams to come in and get in a win already in year 2 of the Buzz Williams era.
Virginia Tech basketball is headed in the right direction and even with the loss, Hokie fans know that the future is very bright.