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Chris Clarke and the Hokies came up just short against #20 Notre Dame. [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]Protecting home court is at a premium this season in the ACC with the Hokies seeing that with a blowout win at home over Duke and two blowout road losses in ACC play. Today, the Hokies faced a tough Notre Dame team that entered the day as one of two teams that had been unbeaten in ACC play in what had all the makings of a very close game.
That proved to be exactly that case, but didn't end so well for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech fell to #20 Notre Dame 76-71 in what was their first home loss in almost a year in a wild game in which both teams led late and in which Notre Dame had as big as a 19-point lead in the first half. However, the Hokies made some mistakes in the closing minute while the Fighting Irish took advantage to close out a victory.
Virginia Tech struggled from three and the free-throw line as the Hokies went 5-for-18 from beyond the arc and 10-for-18 from the charity stripe compared to Notre Dame going 7-for-18 from beyond the arc and 13-for-20 from the line. The Hokies did actually outrebound Notre Dame 32-31 including 9-7 on the offensive glass with Chris Clarke and Zach LeDay having a combined 7 offensive rebounds while both teams ended up with 13 turnovers.
The Hokies were impressive in the second half to come back from down 19 in the first half and down by as much as 14 in the second half, but the Hokies also gave away in the final minute with a couple of simple mistakes including an offensive foul and a shocking turnover on a "roll the ball up the court to save time" in-bounds play that caught everyone off guard and gave Notre Dame enough breathing room.
Chris Clarke was once again a star for the Hokies with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals with only 1 turnover, all stats that led the Hokies today. Clarke has continued to get better and better, and is developing into a star that everyone will have to start taking notice of in the coming months and over the next two years. Clarke is also becoming a big part of the engine of this team that can help flip the momentum around with big plays on both ends of the floor.
The veteran poise of Seth Allen proved critical as Allen had 16 points including 11 points in one short stretch in the first half that helped the Hokies get the lead down from 19 to inside 10. Allen hasn't put up huge numbers this season but he has been much more efficient this season and has proven once again to be someone who can step up when the Hokies need him.
Zach LeDay did not have a great game and had no points in the first half before finishing with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steals along with 3 turnovers. LeDay's down game was a surprise especially given how Notre Dame was also quite small like the Hokies, and Virginia Tech will need him to bounce back Wednesday night against Georgia Tech.
Justin Robinson had a much better game from his major disappointment against Syracuse with 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists while Khadim Sy had 4 points, 1 rebound, and 1 block.
Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs went a combined 3-for-13 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc in what was a bad game for the Hokies' top two wings with Bibbs having 4 points and Hill having 2. The good news is that Hill and Bibbs probably can't have a worse offensive day than they had today but both players struggled throughout this game.
In a league where protecting home court is at a premium, the loss is disappointing but it comes against an underrated Notre Dame team that probably should be in the top 12 in the nation and has 3 ACC road wins on its way to being the ACC's last unbeaten.
Despite struggling from the free-throw line and digging a huge hole in the first half, the Hokies still found a way to make it competitive, but they also found a way to lose a game that they were ready to earn and steal. Virginia Tech has a great chance to bounce back at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night before an important road game at Clemson that presents a good opportunity to get a road in over a NCAA Tournament-caliber team.
The loss may sting especially with protecting home court being vital while this may also have some concerned about the Hokies' NCAA Tournament hopes. While a win would've helped, the Hokies are still in a strong position to make the NCAA Tournament with no reason to worry as things stand right now.
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