After suffering a tough loss in January at Louisville, Virginia Tech was hoping to extract some revenge. Instead, a desperate Louisville team made some big shots down the stretch to pick up a critical win for their NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Hokies fell to Louisville 75-68 to drop to 20-9 on the season and 9-7 in ACC play. With the loss, the Hokies are in danger of having a losing home ACC record for the first time since the 2014-2015 season with one home game remaining at Duke.
Virginia Tech did well protecting the basketball with only 8 turnovers while forcing 15 turnovers from the Cardinals. However, the Hokies had problems on the glass with Louisville finishing the game with 13 offensive rebounds and 10 second chance points compared to 7 offensive rebounds and 9 second chance points for VT.
Louisville also made their threes in the second half going 6-11 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes while VT was 2-12 from 3 in the second half and a poor 6-21 (28.6%) overall. The Hokies also had one of their lowest assist totals in recent games with only 11 today compared to 19 for the Cardinals.
Justin Robinson led the way with 16 points, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover for the Hokies. However, VT’s star point guard was quiet in the second half as Robinson only had 3 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. If you’re going to slow down the Hokies’ offense, it has to start with finding a way to contain Robinson which Louisville did.
Kerry Blackshear was effective in the post with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals before fouling out while shooting 4-6 from the field and 6-7 from the free-throw line. Blackshear made some big shots that helped keep the Hokies in this game, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
Justin Bibbs had 11 points and 4 rebounds but struggled shooting the ball going 4-14 from the field and 2-8 from three-point range. Bibbs also went down with an injury in the closing seconds though it appears that it may have only been a cramp, a big break for Virginia Tech if that’s the case.
Ahmed Hill’s shooting struggles continued as he had 9 points but shot 4-11 from the field and 1-6 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was quiet with only 3 points and 4 rebounds while Devin WIlson was kept off the scoring sheet and had 1 rebound and 1 assist before fouling out.
VT’s young players put in some solid minutes off the bench as PJ Horne had 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block while Wabissa Bede had 4 points, 1 assist, and 1 rebound; and Tyrie Jackson had 2 points. The Hokies’ depth has been beneficial to their improved defensive success but as we approach the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, don’t be surprised to see Buzz Williams start to shorten his bench.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals were led by Quentin Snider who had a career day with 22 points shooting 7-14 from beyond the arc. Though the Cardinals only had 12 points from 2 players off the bench, their starting lineup stepped up with 4 starters finishing in double figures including 3 with at least 12 points.
This was a tough loss for the Hokies with the defensive effort being good, but not enough at times. However, Louisville deserves credit for making some tough three-pointers in the final 4 minutes that made the difference with VT not being able to make their good looks from 3.
While a win would have made VT a lock for the NCAA Tournament, the Hokies are still almost certainly in and should remain around the 8 or 9 seed line. However, the Hokies have a tough final week with Duke coming into Cassell Monday night followed by a trip to a Miami team that has had some recent struggles but will be tough at home.
VT’s dreams of a double-bye at the ACC Tournament and a top 25 ranking this week have most likely disappeared, but the Hokies are still in plenty good shape to make the NCAA Tournament while Louisville picked up a critical road win that may be the difference for them making the Big Dance.