Less than 48 hours removed from an emotionally and physically draining double overtime victory against their in-state rival on Sunday night, the Hokies returned to action on the road against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Even with all those circumstances going against them, including losing one of their best players in Chris Clarke for the season after the UVA game, the Hokies managed to pull out a gutsy victory on the road, 66-63
With a bench shortened to only 7 main on-scholarship players, the Hokies struggled with closing out on shooters for the entire first half. Pittsburgh finished the first half on a blistering 8-11 (73%) pace from long range. They started 4-5, and jumped out to an early 18-8 lead.
Virginia Tech fought back from the slow start, and brought the lead back to as close as four with six minutes left in the half at 27-23. However, Pitt hit two quick threes and opened the lead back up to 10 and never gave up the double-digit lead again for the rest of the half, going into the locker room up 40-29.
Some positive takeaways from the first half included Ahmed Hill starting to hit his shots again (10 points at the break), Matt Galloway getting some minutes in the middle of the half (including an assist), and the Hokies starting to grab some offensive rebounds. Even though Tech was able to crash the glass a little more effectively, they weren’t highly successful on converting on those 2nd chance opportunities, finishing with only 4 points off 5 offensive rebounds.
To start the 2nd half, the Hokies pushed the Panthers as both Hill and Outlaw hit early three-pointers. Pittsburgh had the answer though, playing good defense and hitting three-pointers of their own. Throughout the half, it was a story of frustration for the Hokies. Whenever they could get a stop on the defensive end, they weren’t able to capitalize on the offensive end.
The game turned on a single possession with about 9 minutes left in the game. Justin Robinson collected a rebound and threw a beautiful outlet pass to Hill who laid it in while also drawing a flagrant foul. The ensuing free throws went down, and Bibbs hit a three-pointer off the inbounds that the Hokies got because of the flagrant. For everyone scoring at home, that’s 7 straight points.
And @VT_MBBall keeps rolling!
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) February 15, 2017
The lead changed hands for the rest of the game, as Pittsburgh went on a mini 6-0 run to go up by 4. A highlight of the final stretch was Robinson with an acrobatic layup while also getting fouled. He didn’t make the free throw, but it gave the Hokies a two-point lead with just over four minutes to go. The play of the game came when LeDay grabbed a huge steal, started the fast break, and Seth Allen hit a huge three pointer to give the Hokies the lead for good with around a minute left.
This is a huge win for the Hokies. Going on the road less than 48 hours removed from the win against UVA, playing basically a seven man rotation (Galloway played for only a few minutes), starting slow, and playing in a dead arena were all potential excuses for the Hokies not to show up.
Instead, the Hokies continued to scrap and claw, earning a very important road win for their NCAA tournament resume. Their RPI jumped to 35th after the victory as well, helping their case even more. Looking forward, the Hokies can win out at home, lose the rest of their road games, and finish above .500 in ACC play. Given how weak the bubble is this year and how strong the ACC is, that will be a comfortable feeling for Hokie fans going into the ACC Tournament and Selection Sunday.
Stat leaders for the game:
Ahmed Hill with 17 points, Zach LeDay with 11 rebounds as part of a double-double, and Justin Robinson with eight assists. Leday also chipped in three blocks and two steals as well tonight.
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) February 15, 2017
Up next for the Hokies is their game at Louisville on Saturday at 1 PM. Louisville is one of the best teams in the country right now, but are coming off a grueling overtime win over Syracuse on Monday night. The game will be televise on ESPNU.