Virginia Tech had their worst performance of the season by far as the Hokies fell to Wake Forest 80-61 in their ACC opener falling to 6-3 on the season and 0-1 in ACC play. Here's my 3 thoughts on the Hokies' tough loss to Wake Forest.
1. An Interior Defensive Disaster
Defense has been the strength of Virginia Tech all season to date, but today was a nightmare as the Hokies' defense struggled on the interior and on screens. Wake Forest took advantage especially in the paint as they had a massive 48-26 points in the paint advantage while going 26-36 from inside the arc.
When you give up that type of efficiency from inside the arc, you aren't going to win many games, that simple.
Wake Forest seemed to be a step ahead creating space inside to attack the Hokies putting Tech on a treadmill with Storm Murphy, Justyn Mutts, and Mike Young all mentioning in various wordings how it felt like the Hokies were constantly playing catch up on the defensive end and simply couldn't.
We can talk all we want about how the offense wasn't exactly perfect or how this was not a great day for Tech's backcourt offensively (which we will shortly), but the reason why Tech lose this game was due to defense not offense.
The good news is that the defensive struggles from today are a clear outlier compared to the other 8 games from Tech so far this season. Additionally, this creates a good teaching and sharpening opportunity as Mike Young mentioned the need for little things like keeping their hands higher up and having better close-outs on the defensive end.
Overall, the focus will be clear for Mike Young and his team going forward as he shared after the game.
"Come back and get better tomorrow and Monday."
2. Bad Day For Tech's Backcourt
Virginia Tech's starting backcourt had their worst performance of the season by far as Nahiem Alleyne, Hunter Cattoor, and Storm Murphy all struggled. Murphy was the bright spot of the trio as he had 7 points on 3-7 shooting plus 3 assists and no turnovers which may be his best game in weeks but not the level that the Hokies need.
Meanwhile, Alleyne and Cattoor both had bad games at the wrong time as Alleyne was 1-7 including 1-5 from three with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers. Cattoor struggled even more going 1-5 including 0-4 from three finishing with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 turnover.
This was a shooting performance that was outside the norm with Mike Young being pleased with the shots that the Hokies were getting, but Tech's guards not being able to convert.
One fair talking point may be the fact that Darius Maddox only played 12 minutes. Maddox was Tech's best backcourt shooter by far today, and continues to be a high-quality scorer who is a threat to create his own shot and isn't just a catch-and-shoot guy.
The good news is this seems like an aberration from the Hokies in terms of their backcourt shooting with a good and important get-right opportunity against Cornell on Wednesday.
3. Keve Aluma Looked Like An All-ACC Player
While most of Virginia Tech struggled today especially the backcourt, Tech's frontcourt played well especially Keve Aluma who was dominant on the offensive end and on the glass on his way to what was one of his best games of the season so far.
Aluma had 23 points on 8-16 shooting while snagging 9 rebounds including 4 on the offensive end to help give Tech a 11-7 offensive rebounding advantage. Additionally, Aluma had 5 assists with a few sharp passes in there though he also had 4 turnovers which was less than ideal, but was the only real weak spot outside of a defensive day that wasn't great for many Hokies though Aluma wasn't too bad overall on that end.
He has had some struggles early this season, but there were a couple big positives including the fact that Aluma was willing to attack the rim off the dribble be aggressive in trying to get to the rim. That is a major step forward after Aluma's lack of aggressiveness attacking the rim has caused some struggles at times especially against Memphis.
Aluma also is finding his rhythm from the outside shooting 4-7 from three-point range today and using that to force big men away from the paint allowing him to exploit that to attack the rim.
Keve Aluma hasn't had the fastest start to the 2021-22 season, but he has found his footing and that aggressive touch that had been missing which may be as important as anything going forward from this game.