With Joe Lunardi projecting Virginia Tech (16-7) as the last team in the NCAA tournament, the Hokies realize how important every game is. A win over a quality team like the Miami Hurricanes (17-5) would have been a great resume booster. Especially since the Canes came into the game without their best player, Bruce Brown (11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG), this game was a golden opportunity for the Hokies. Unfortunately, Anthony Lawrence and Miami had other plans in mind.
Lawrence finished the game with 25 points on 9-10 shooting, and the Hurricanes outplayed the Hokies en route to a 84-75 victory. Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs put up a good effort for the Hokies, scoring 22 and 16 respectively. Nickeil Alexander-Walker also had a good showing as the freshman from Toronto had 15.
This was Miami’s second game without their star Bruce Brown, who injured his foot against Florida State. The Hurricanes have had to find some offense elsewhere, and they have. Lonnie Walker has excelled since Brown’s injury, scoring 16 against Pittsburgh and 14 this afternoon. DJ Vasiljevic also had a significant impact, scoring 14, including six points in the first two minutes on layups.
The previous sentence describes how the day went for the Hokies; they had a difficult time generating stops defensively. Miami came out with more heat than the NBA team in South Beach. In the first half, the Canes outrebounded Virginia Tech 22-10, shot 58.6% from the field, and lead 44-32.
It especially didn’t look good for Buzz William’s crew when Kerry Blackshear had to exit early due to his poor play. In came freshman PJ Horne, who ended up putting together a solid performance with eight points and seven boards. He helped the Hokies hold their own, although it seemed every rebound was being grabbed by someone in a green and orange jersey. Lawrence had a field day in the paint, as he had 13 rebounds on the day.
About two minutes after the second half started, the Hokies found themselves trailing 44-28. Then, it was the Justin show for the boys of Blacksburg; Robinson and Bibbs hit layups, three pointers and exhilarating fast-break dunks to cut the deficit to 66-63 with 3:51 left. At that moment, the Cassell crowd was deafening, only to be silenced moments later by a Lonnie Walker three. Miami held on to take the never easy ACC road win.
For Virginia Tech, this was certainly a disappointing performance, especially after entering with a three-game winning streak. Rebounding, perimeter defense, and turnovers have been the Hokies’ Achilles’ Heels all season. Other than the turnover department, it was no different today; Tech was outrebounded 41-28, and also allowed Miami to shoot 10/21 from three-point land.
Outside of Bibbs, Robinson and Alexander-Walker, the other key Hokie players struggled. Ahmed Hill, who averages 14.4 points per game, put up a bagel on the scoreboard. Clarke and Blackshear struggled as well as they managed to combine for only nine points. Despite the disappointment, hope is still alive for Virginia Tech.
In the tough ACC conference, there are still plenty of opportunities for Tech to pick up some resume boosting wins. They will get a stab at Virginia, Duke twice, Clemson, Louisville, and a trip to Miami. They will have to rebound quickly, however, as North Carolina State comes to Cassell Coliseum this Wednesday on a three-game winning streak.