The Virginia Tech Hokies were looking to go to 5-1 in the ACC and pick up their second-straight road victory, but faced a tough challenge against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who entered this game with momentum after a win at Duke. Virginia Tech put up a valiant effort but in the end, the Fighting Irish found a way to survive.
Virginia Tech led for more than half the game, but the Fighting Irish pulled out the win in the end 83-81 over the Hokies. There was undoubtedly some controversy with a couple wrong calls by the refereeing crew, but Virginia Tech’s boxing out on the glass wasn’t good enough while Notre Dame was able to make some shots in the second half.
The loss put the Hokies at 4-2 in the ACC and 12-7 overall, but Virginia Tech made a statement that they are for real in the ACC, and that they will be able to challenge North Carolina in Cassell Coliseum Sunday night. Meanwhile, Notre Dame showed the importance of experience as they were able to keep fighting after each of the many times Virginia Tech protected the lead in the second half.
The Hokies once again struggled on the glass as they were outrebounded 35-27 including 10-6 in the offensive rebounding category. That was largely due to the fact that Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste had 15 rebounds while Virginia Tech’s four big men combined for 9 rebounds.
Some of Notre Dame’s rebounds could have been prevented or been turned into over-the-back fouls if the Hokies were more disciplined with their boxing out. Against a North Carolina team that includes Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, Virginia Tech’s boxing out will have to improve.
The Hokies lost the turnover battle 11-9, but overall did a better job of protecting the basketball on the road in a tough environment. Virginia Tech once again shot well at the free-throw line going 20-for-27 with four of the seven misses coming from Shane Henry. Virginia Tech’s free-throw shooting improvement has been a big reason for their overall improvement in ACC play.
Seth Allen made a couple of bad decisions and took a couple of bad shots, but the former Maryland transfer stepped his game up with 20 points and 8 rebounds including 9-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. Allen did only shoot 5-of-14 from the field on the game, but he is starting to show signs that he may be close to getting out of his season-long shooting slump.
If so, the Hokies may be headed for an even stronger surge that could start pushing the Hokies towards the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Zach LeDay has had some struggles on the glass recently with only 2 rebounds against the Fighting Irish, but LeDay was once again an offensive force with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, which included 6-for-7 shooting from the free-throw line and 2-for-2 shooting from beyond the arc.
LeDay has been one of the biggest surprises in possibly all of college basketball this season, and is a big reason why Virginia Tech has been as competitive as the Hokies have been this season.
Justin Bibbs took some time get in rhythm, but had a solid game once he got going with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting including 2-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Shane Henry made all four of his shots and had 11 points with 3-for-7 shooting from the free-throw line as the senior big man made a difference when Kerry Blackshear dealt with foul trouble.
Jalen Hudson had a disappointing shooting night going for 4-for-11 from the field for 9 points, but the sophomore guard did a great job of crashing the board as he tied his career-high of 7 rebounds. Justin Robinson tried to be aggressive, but just didn’t have the same luck getting to the rim as Allen, limiting himself to 3 points and 2 assists.
Kerry Blackshear fouled out for the third time this season in what was not his best game as the freshman big man had 4 points and 3 rebounds. Satchel Pierce played briefly and had 1 rebound while Devin Wilson also did not have a great game with no significant statistical contribution in 11 minutes.
Virginia Tech put up a valiant effort and if it wasn’t forced a charge that was called a block, a push-off by Demetrius Jackson that wasn’t called by the refs, or if Seth Allen’s three would have gone down; the story today would have been different as the Hokies led for over 25 minutes of this game including most of the second half.
Virginia Tech has proven that they are a NIT-caliber team that is starting to show signs that they might be able to make some more noise nationally, and make people start to wonder if this team should be in the NCAA Tournament. Even with the loss, the Hokies have shown that Sunday night’s game against North Carolina is a fairly big game in the ACC.