The first half started as a back-and-forth offensive battle between the two teams. Pitt was draining shots early and often, while the Hokies were doing their best to keep up. Virginia Tech eventually forced Pitt’s scoring output to slow down by forcing turnovers. Meanwhile, the Hokies became very efficient on offense, getting many open looks and having only one turnover in the half. However, VT was unable to capitalize on those looks, allowing the Panthers to hang around.
The score at the half was 39-34 in favor of the Hokies. At that point, Tech was winning the turnover battle ten-to-one. However, Pitt made twice as many threes as the Hokies in the half.
After the break, not much seemed to change. Virginia Tech still managed to force turnovers and get the ball inside, while failing to win the battle in the perimeter. VT made just one three in the second half compared to Pitt’s six. The Hokies managed to do enough down the stretch to beat the Panthers 81-67.
The team was led by redshirt sophomore center Kerry Blackshear. His 31 points were a career high, and he was easily the best player on the floor. No matter what Pitt tried on defense, they had no answer for the big man. As we stated in our preview, this was seemingly the perfect matchup for Blackshear to shine. And he did just that.
Unfortunately, there were still some areas the Hokies showed a need for improvement in. As stated before, the team’s three point shooting was abysmal. They finished 4-for-23 from behind the arc, making their percentage an ugly 17%. Two of those threes came from Blackshear. With all those shooters in the backcourt, the Hokies need to have more than two threes come from their guards.
Another issue came in how little contribution the Hokies got from their bench. The starters seemed to carry most of the load as the bench finished with only two points. Those points came on two Chris Clarke free throws. Not only did the bench not make any field goals, they only attempted one. PJ Horne and Wabissa Bede failed to make it into the game yet again, while Tyrie Jackson played just three minutes.
The only bench player who really contributed was Clarke. Despite his low scoring output, he managed to lead the team in rebounds and steals while being second in assists. He finished with two points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
The division between the Hokies’ top six and bottom six players became much greater in this game.
In addition to Blackshear’s monster game, most of the Hokies’ starters managed to contribute well. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (16) and Ahmed Hill (15) combined to match Blackshear’s scoring total at 31. In addition, point guard Justin Robinson finished with a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.
The Panthers were led by junior guard Jared Wilson-Frame, who scored 20 points off the bench. At times it seemed like he kept Pitt in the game by himself with his hot shooting. The Hokies’ defensive game plan allowed him to take those shots, and he capitalized.
All in all, the Hokies were able to seemingly have their way with the Panthers. They did everything they needed to win the game, but were unable to execute on three-point chances.