The Virginia Tech Hokies went on the road to Raleigh to take on NC State looking to build on a huge ACC opening win over Duke while facing a Wolfpack team playing in their home ACC opener after opening ACC play with an 18-point loss at Miami.
Tonight reminded us that playing on the road in the ACC this year will be a huge challenge while also showing the dangers of the letdown game after a big win.
Virginia Tech was blown out by NC State 104-78 in a game that was never really close after the first media timeout with the Hokies being down 25 at halftime. Virginia Tech briefly showed some life in the second half with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 15, but the Hokies couldn’t build on that and NC State eventually pulled away again with the Wolfpack’s star Dennis Smith Jr. having a triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).
Virginia Tech’s defense was lackluster for much of the night especially in the first half while NC State was able to wear the Hokies down in the second half with NC State shooting an impressive 64.1% from the field. Meanwhile, the Hokies’ offense didn’t have a great offensive night shooting 43.1% on the night including just a little over 30% at halftime though one positive was that the Hokies did shoot 43.3% from three.
The Hokies played sloppy with 20 turnovers though the Wolfpack were also fairly sloppy with 17 turnovers while Virginia Tech had issues with NC State’s size losing the rebounding battle 40-25, offensive rebound battle 7-6, and having 6 shots blocked compared to getting only 1 block. Virginia Tech will have to handle having a size disadvantage more consistently as they did against Duke especially with a huge challenge looming Saturday at a big 12th-ranked Florida State team.
The Hokies did put up a lot of effort in the second half especially from Chris Clarke who you could tell was quite frustrated after each of his late second half turnovers. Clarke had 15 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 4 turnovers in this game; but his effort stood out as Clarke has proven to be someone who doesn’t stop until the handshakes happen though he’ll have to be careful to avoid technical fouls like the one he received in the second half tonight.
Ahmed Hill led the Hokies with 17 points and had a solid 4-for-10 shooting night from beyond the arc while Zach LeDay had 16 points and 6 rebounds and had a quality three-point shooting night for the first time in a while going 3-for-6 from deep. Justin Robinson wasn’t bad tonight playing better in the second half but fouling out while also having 13 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 rebounds.
Seth Allen had one of the worst nights of his collegiate career with only 5 points and 2 assists plus 6 turnovers while also being sent to the locker room early to be checked for a concussion. On top of that, Khadim Sy was unable to play tonight after rolling his ankle in the afternoon shootaround. The Hokies’ depth could be a big issue against Florida State especially if Allen does have a concussion, and both Allen and Sy are unable to play against Florida State or even if only one is unable to play.
Ty Outlaw had one of his best statistical performances of the year with 9 points on 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc plus 2 steals, 1 block, and 1 rebound while Justin Bibbs struggled with only 3 points but did have 6 rebounds and Matt Galloway briefly played at the end of the game.
Tonight’s performance was quite disappointing from the Hokies as they failed to bring the intensity they needed to on the road at NC State while also seeming to suffer a hangover from their big home win over Duke. The good news for the Hokies is that NC State is a NCAA Tournament caliber loss and while a 26-point loss is always bad, the loss isn’t too a bad team and this team still doesn’t really have a bad loss.
More than anything else, this is a great wakeup call for a team that kind of needed one to get into the rhythm of ACC play. During non-conference play, Virginia Tech would have big games against teams like Ole Miss and then play weaker competition that they could have a couple good runs and sleep-walk the rest of the way to a comfortable victory in.
Obviously, that’s not the case in ACC play when those nights when the Hokies don’t face a Duke or North Carolina still come against NCAA Tournament caliber teams like NC State. The Hokies are a veteran team, but these are still college-aged men and even veteran college teams need a wakeup call to get themselves back into the rhythm of conference play.
It’s like the kid that goes to a summer camp and on the first night has a whole lot of fun and stays up till 2 in the morning even though he has to get up at 6 in the morning. The next morning, he gets a brutal wakeup call at 6 and struggles that next day, but at that point he can learn his lesson and get into a better rhythm or he’ll keep having the same issue.
This is a veteran team that just got reminded that they can’t get stuck on a big win or loss and I expect that they’ll take this in stride and give Florida State a very good challenge in Tallahassee.
The los is disappointing, but the wakeup call is going to be a good thing for the Hokies. However, the much bigger issue could be the fact that Seth Allen may have a concussion along with Khadim Sy suffering an injury that may put the Hokies’ depth in a perilous position.