Entering today’s game in Atlanta, the Virginia Tech Hokies hadn’t won a road game in the ACC since December 2013, but many believed that the drought could end today. After Georgia Tech dominated the first half, those hopes decreased significantly especially after the Duke blowout loss last weekend.
However, Virginia Tech never gave up, and the Hokies were rewarded for their grit and determination.
Georgia Tech was up by 10 at halftime and with under 4.5 minutes left in the game, but the Hokies found a way to win 78-77 despite the fact that they only led for a total of 31 seconds against the Yellow Jackets. Seth Allen made one of two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to give the Hokies the lead before an out-of-control Marcus Georges-Hunt failed to get a shot off.
Virginia Tech struggled all-around in the first half, and were not at their best today, but they found a way to win against the Yellow Jackets largely due to their 23-for-27 free-throw shooting in the second half. Getting this type of win when they are outplayed on the road if a great sign of the progress that the Virginia Tech basketball program has made under Buzz Williams.
Virginia Tech shot 28-for-36 overall from the free-throw line which proved to be big after shooting worse than Georgia Tech from the field (48.5% to 45.1%). Virginia Tech did lose the turnover battle 14-13, and were outrebounded 38-31 including a 10-5 gap in offensive rebounds along with the Yellow Jackets having 10 blocks compared to 5 for Virginia Tech.
However, the Hokies found a way to win through their free-throw shooting on the road when they were statistically outplayed, which is impressive.
Once again, Zach LeDay had a strong performance with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks while shooting 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. LeDay was only 1-for-4 from beyond the arc, but Georgia Tech was force to recognize him as a shooter, and LeDay was able to take advantage of that in this game.
LeDay is definitely the focal point of this Virginia Tech basketball team and depending on how the Hokies play going forward, the junior big man may be making a case to receive some sort of All-ACC recognition this season.
Kerry Blackshear had one of his best games of the season with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal for the Hokies. Blackshear also was clutch for the Hokies today as he way 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, and has seemed to gain confidence from the charity stripe after his big free throws against Wake Forest.
Seth Allen was aggressive down the stretch for the Hokies, and was able to get to the free-throw line a lot in the second half. After scoring no points in the first half, Allen had 13 points in the second half largely due to the fact that he went 11-for-13 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
Allen is still struggling shooting the basketball, but the Hokies are likely hoping that his strong free-throw shooting day will give him the confidence he needs to improve his shooting.
Justin Bibbs did not have his best game going 2-for-8 from the field for 8 points including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc despite bringing the same attacking style that helped him put up 32 points against Wake Forest. Meanwhile, Justin Robinson was once again effective attacking the rim as he shot 4-for-7 with 9 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds.
Jalen Hudson had one of his best games of late with 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting along with 2 assists and 1 rebound while Devin Wilson provided some solid minutes with 4 points, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Satchel Pierce and Shane Henry provided some decent minutes with Pierce having 4 points and 3 rebounds while Henry had 2 points and 2 rebounds.
Virginia Tech now enters a tough stretch of games beginning with a road trip to a Notre Dame team that just won at Duke before hosting North Carolina and Louisville in back-to-back games followed by a trip to Pittsburgh. These four games will show a lot about how good this Virginia Tech can be and whether they can get onto the fringe of the NCAA Tournament picture.
However, Virginia Tech has the type of high-level coaching with Buzz Williams that will make Virginia Tech a contender to pull off a couple of upsets in the next four games. Williams kept a young team focused and calm on a road, and did his job once again to prepare his team for victory as the Hokies held Charles Mitchell and Adam Smith to 11 points and 5-of-21 shooting.
Williams is definitely an early frontrunner to be the ACC Coach of the Year in 2016 along with Clemson’s Brad Brownell who has the Tigers at 5-1 in the ACC after their third-straight win over a ranked team.
Virginia Tech basketball is headed in a very positive direction with the Hokies getting a big win against a Georgia Tech team that entered the day in the top 50 of the RPI. The NIT is definitely a realistic goal now for the Hokies while the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament chances, while still being faint, have become slightly brighter today.