After losing two straight games that could have gone the other way, the Virginia Tech Hokies were hoping to get another big win as they had at the beginning of January against the #16 Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals had shown some vulnerability against some weaker ACC teams on the road while also losing road games at Michigan State, Kentucky, and Clemson.
Unfortunately, the Hokies were unable to join that group of teams.
In what turned into an unexpected high-scoring game largely due a multitude of free throws in the final minute, the #16 Louisville Cardinals beat the Virginia Tech Hokies 91-83. Virginia Tech did a lot of things well, but just weren't good enough defensively and gave the Cardinals a few too many open three-pointers while missing a few dunks.
There were many positives as the Hokies only had 12 turnovers against a tough Louisville defense compared to 15 for the Cardinals while they were only outrebounded 31-28 including no difference on the offensive glass. Yes, that stat may be affected by the fact that multiple Louisville big men got in foul trouble, but Virginia Tech improved on the glass.
The difference of the night came in three-point shooting as the Hokies went 4-for-15 from beyond the arc while the Cardinals couldn't seem to miss going 12-of-18 from beyond the arc in one of the best three-point shooting performances ever by a team in Cassell Coliseum.
Louisville's Damion Lee was left open a few too many times and shined for the Cardinals with 29 points on 6-of-8 shooting including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line while also having 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
The Hokies also had 7 shots blocked by the Cardinals in what has unfortunately not been unusual for the Hokies this season. In the end, the Hokies were unable to overcome Louisville's fantastic three-point shooting despite their valiant effort.
Jalen Hudson had one of the best games of his career with 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 12-for-14 shooting from the free-throw line. Hudson also did a great job once again of crashing the boards leading the Hokies with 7 total rebounds including 2 offensive rebounds.
Hudson has been playing better lately and has helped the Hokies look more and more like one of the ACC's top 10 teams that should get their chance in the NIT.
Seth Allen also had one of his best games of the season with 26 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 13-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line. Allen was very productive for the Hokies when attacking the rim while he continues to struggle from beyond the arc after having a 1-for-7 shooting performance from beyond the arc.
If Allen can get it going from deep this season, Virginia Tech's offense will become a lot more dangerous.
Zach LeDay was quietly productive for the Hokies with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting while also making all 8 of his free throws. LeDay hasn't had as many rebounds in the last few games with only 4 against the Cardinals, but some long rebounds and quality boxing out allowed some of his teammates to effectively crash the boards.
Justin Bibbs was the only other Hokie to score as the sophomore had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting including 2-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc. The issue for Bibbs was his significant foul trouble that led to Bibbs playing only 24 minutes.
Johnny Hamilton played for the first time in a while and was a force on the glass for his brief stint with 4 rebounds in only 9 minutes. Justin Robinson made a couple of good plays and had 2 assists but was largely ineffective along with Devin Wilson who had one rebound. Shane Henry was moderately productive with four rebounds while Kerry Blackshear fouled out without a point or rebound.
Virginia Tech will need more help in the coming games, but this team is making progress and will be ready for back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Syracuse. However, Virginia Tech definitely needs to get a win in one of those two games before coming back home to face Clemson.