Virginia Tech's bad road trip took a turn for the worse Tuesday night as a 24-2 Miami run in the first half doomed the Hokies to a 71-61 loss in Coral Gables despite Tech's near comeback cutting the lead down to as few as 4.
With the loss, the Hokies fall to 14-7 overall including 5-5 in ACC play while Miami improves to 11-9 overall including 3-7 in ACC play. The loss will fortunately fall in Quadrant 2 for Virginia Tech, but this is definitely a game that Tech needed not only for resume depth but also to take pressure off tougher must-win games later on, especially with a down ACC.
With the loss, it's safe to project Virginia Tech on the wrong side of the bubble at this point, but with plenty of time still to turn it around, albeit with a razor thin margin for error.
Overall, Virginia Tech was inefficient for most of the night before a late stretch helped push themselves to 40.7% from the field compared to 49.1% for Miami. Additionally, the Hokies went only 8-22 from 3 and 5-9 from the free-throw line while Miami was 6-15 from 3 and 13-16 from the free-throw line.
Tech had 7 first half turnovers, but cleaned things up for most of the second half till late finishing with 12 turnovers overall. However, 6 of those came from veteran point guard Wabissa Bede on what was a brutal night for the junior point guard. Tech did force 11 steals, but only had a 19-16 advantage in points off turnovers while Miami dominated offensively in the paint with 36 points there compared to 24 for Tech. However, one positive in the interior was a 7-6 offensive rebounding with Tyrece Radford deserving plenty of credit for that.
Radford was the one Hokie to play extremely well with 24 points on 10-13 shooting to go with 8 rebounds and 3 steals. The hustle of Radford and his ability to turn turnovers into transition points were big reasons why Virginia Tech was even able to have a chance in a game that wasn't within double digits at all in the second half before the final few minutes.
Tech's three non-freshman regulars were not nearly as good as Radford with Wabissa Bede having a rough night with 1 point on 0-5 shooting to go with 8 assists and 6 turnovers. Meanwhile, Isaiah Wilkins was inefficient with 3 points on 1-8 shooting while P.J. Horne had 6 points on 2-3 shooting from 3 but went 0-4 from inside the arc.
When you're a young team like Virginia Tech, you can't afford to have your three non-freshmen shoot a combined 3-20 from the field and expect to win.
Landers Nolley didn't have his best evening as he was 6-15 from the field for 14 points, but failed to get to the free-throw line, something that the Hokies need from their star scorer. Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor were both efficient as Alleyne had 7 points on 3-4 shooting while Cattoor had 6 points on 2-3 shooting. Jalen Cone had a quiet night with 0 points on 0-2 shooting plus 2 rebounds from three while John Ojiako had a rebound in 3 minutes of playing time.
Tech showed plenty of fight in the second half, something that shows some encouraging maturity especially for a young team. However, the first half was a mess for the Hokies with Tech unable to stop the bleeding, and Mike Young's decision not to call a timeout to try to slow things down likely being the wrong call. Additionally, Tech's veteran players struggled on a night where the Hokies needed them to play a whole lot better.
Overall, this definitely hurts Tech's NCAA Tournament hopes, but the path to March Madness is still there for this young team. The margin for error though has only got slimmer after another disappointing road loss.