#9 Virginia Tech and #4 Virginia had split their past 6 games going into their big game with VT averaging a margin of victory of 1.6 points and UVA averaging a 22.3-point margin of victory.
This game followed those trends but unfortunately for the Hokies, it was the trend they wish didn't come true.
Virginia (16-0, 4-0 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech (14-2, 3-1) 81-59 in a game that was over by halftime as UVA jumped out to a 22-point lead thanks to a 28-11 run to end the first half.
The Cavaliers shot an impressive 68% (17-25) from the field in the first half including 10-14 from three-point range. They did all of this while holding the Hokies to 35% shooting (7-20) from the field in the first half including 2-9 shooting from three.
While the Hokies kept fighting all the way to the end, they never really had a chance to come back and make the game even interesting.
The Hokies' offense found some rhythm in the second half shooting 50% (12-24) from the field including 41.7% (5-12) from behind the arc on their way to a 37-37 second half split with UVA. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers shot 50% as well (14-28) from the field but just 3-10 (30%) from three-point range.
Kihei Clark, a 5’9” freshman guard for Virginia that played 30 minutes against the Hokies, had 9 points on 3-6 shooting. However, Clark played a more important role – shutting down Tech point guard Justin Robinson.
“I thought he was as good, arguably, as he has been in ACC play, tonight,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said. “I think it frees up the other guards off the ball a little bit more when he’s in. I think those little guys that have that chance of direction and change of pace seem to force rotation maybe a little quicker than guys that are taller.”
Clark held Robinson to nine points on 2-7 shooting from the field, including 1-5 from long range.
Halfway through the second half, Clark almost forced a 10-second violation and a turnover on Robinson, pressing the senior while he was bringing the ball up the floor. This led to a timeout by Williams and Robinson, frustrated, got called for a technical foul after knocking the ball away from Clark. Robinson did not play the rest of the game.
Virginia’s top three scorers all were in double figures as De'Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 21 points, while Kyle Guy added 15 and Ty Jerome added 14.
Those three players scored a combined 50 points. Hunter was lethal from the post, while Guy and Jerome hit everything from outside.
Ball movement for UVa and not closing out fast enough were the two themes for the Hokies on defense.
“I think they did really well moving the ball,” Williams said. “That’s a big part of what they do offensively. We were behind on ball pressure, behind on rotation, behind on stunts and with space, categorically, their whole team can make shots. They proved that in the first half.”
As for the Hokies, Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the team with 19 points on 6-10 shooting from the field and 2-3 from downtown. Ahmed Hill added 14 points on 5-12 shooting, 2-6 from three. Robinson added nine while Ty Outlaw and Kerry Blackshear had 7 and 6 points, respectively.
The shooting struggles for the Hokies combined with Virginia making every single shot they seemed to take in the first half, including a buzzer-beater 3 from Clark, buried the Hokies in this game.
“I think they hit a lot of tough, contested threes,” Ahmed Hill said. “During the first half, our hands were there, just getting there a little too late, and credit to them for playing well.”
It was a very frustrating night for Virginia Tech fans, but it’s very hard to win when your opponent shoots the lights out.
Even still, the Hokies come away with a learning experience and their second loss on the season. Though Tech has not played well on the road in their 3 games thus far, they will have a chance to redeem themselves at home against Wake Forest on Saturday.
“We can’t hang our heads,” Alexander-Walker said. “It’s a long season and we are grateful to only have two losses. As a team, we have to move forward. We know we have to defend Cassell on Saturday against Wake and come out hot.”
Photo Credit: VT Athletics
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