LeDay Scowls His Hokies to the Win

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I had a bad feeling about this one from the pregame to the early moments of the second half. It started when a TSL poster — I don’t remember who, and I can’t find the post now — noted that the Hokies weren’t shooting well in pre-game warmups.

Yeah, I know … it doesn’t matter. But it didn’t help me feel better.

Then it extended into the first half, when the Hokies were missing wide-open three-pointers, but Wake Forest was seeing a big basket.

The Hokies were hanging in there, but I had a feeling of dread that Wake Forest, with their hot shooting, would suddenly widen the margin to 10 or 15 points with a big run. I even went to Twitter, on my personal account, to express my dread:

Wake Forest kept pouring it on, eventually running their three-point shooting to 5-of-7, while the Hokies were starting out 2-of-9, which included 0-for-3 from Justin Bibbs and 0-for-2 from Ty Outlaw.

Amazingly, the Hokies were staying close, down just 31-27 despite the disparity in three-point shooting. And then Zach LeDay hit a three-pointer to close it to 31-30.

In retrospect, that was Zach LeDay serving notice that he was going to be the story in this game, not Wake Forest’s three-point shooters or Wake’s highly-touted John Collins. As the Hokies were getting off to a slow start and looking lethargic both offensively and defensively, LeDay was almost single-handedly keeping them in it:

Not only that, but LeDay piled up 7 first-half rebounds and took — and made — all four of Virginia Tech’s first-half free throws.

But he had a disastrous end of the half. First he committed a goaltending violation to put Wake Forest up 41-37 with just 1.1 seconds left in the half, and then, while being shoved in the back, he let a long pass slip through his fingers, leading to this:

Knowing what we know now, we can (sort of) laugh at that shot. But at the time, there was nothing funny about it. Greg McClinton is a little-used reserve who averages 7.2 minutes a game, and who until then hadn’t even attempted a three-pointer this season, much less thrown one in from about 80 feet out.

It put the hot-shooting Deacs at 6-of-9 from three point range for the half and staked them to a 7-point (44-37) lead that wasn’t insurmountable, but was a hill to climb, emotionally more than anything else.

The start of the second half seemed more of the same: Outlaw missed another three-pointer, and so did Ahmed Hill, and the Hokies’ outside shooting fell to 3-of-13.

The Game Turns Tech’s Way

And then things shifted in a moment. The Hokies poured it on, getting an And-1 from Hill, two three-pointers from Outlaw, and even a “Whoa!” bucket in the lane from Khadim Sy, to outscore Wake Forest 13-7 in the first media period and close it to 51-50. McClinton’s full-court heave was erased, and it was anyone’s ballgame.

You know the rest: the Hokies hung 62 points on Wake Forest in the second half to win 99-90. After the half-time break, the Deacs made just 1 of their first 9 three-point attempts, while Tech, from the moment they were 3-of-13 from out there, made 7 of their last 11. Outlaw canned four straight to bounce back from his poor start and finish 4-of-7 from three with 14 points. Seth Allen (18 points), Bibbs (15) and Ahmed Hill (12) all played well, and Justin Robinson, the Human Bruise, was tough as nails.

It was as if McClinton’s buzzer-beating heave was a turning point, a moment in which the Hokies planted a stake in the ground and said “no more.”

Independent of what was happening with the score, I can tell you the moment I thought the Hokies were going to win: it was 8:37 PM, when I texted my old college roommate, “Pssstttt … I’m starting to feel good about winning this. Don’t tell anyone.”

It’s hard to say what made me think that. I don’t remember the exact score at that moment, but it was still tight, still back and forth. But Wake Forest was starting to get that look about them, that out-of-synch, everything’s-hard look. And the Hokies were getting the opposite look, that look of confidence that said they knew they were taking control, and they were going to keep it.

I had the ACC Network production of the event on my television (not ESPN2), and within a few minutes of me getting that feeling, analyst Dan Bonner started to talk about the “momentum shift” in the Hokies’ direction. I thought to myself, “Darn right.”

There were a few nerve-wracking moments there towards the end. After VT broke a 67-all tie with a 24-12 run to take a 91-79 lead with 1:06 left, Wake found their shooting stroke again, making three straight 3s in the next 23 seconds. The Hokies were meanwhile going just 3-of-6 from the line, and it was suddenly 94-88 with 40 seconds left. That turned out to be nothing but a hiccup, though.

Zach LeDay
Don’t make Zach LeDay angry; you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

LeDay Out Front

Throughout that barnstorming second half, Zach LeDay was the bell cow, scowling and scrapping and taking contact and scoring anyway. His effort was consistent throughout. He had 15 first half points and 16 second half points; 7 first half rebounds and 8 second half rebounds; he was 5-of-9 in the first half and 3-of-6 in the second half. You get the point. Don’t let your memory tell you that LeDay just led the Hokies to victory in the second half. Give him credit for all 40 minutes, because he was there the whole time, carrying his teammates and setting the tone.

Seth Allen has gotten all the attention for his game-winning shots this season, deservedly so, but it’s LeDay who leads the Hokies in both scoring and rebounding, and it’s LeDay who brings the battle every game. Wake’s John Collins is a great player, one who finished second in the ACC Player of the Year voting, but in the last two games, LeDay has outscored Collins 55-28, outrebounded Collins 25-19, and outscowled Collins a million to one.

I hated that Wake Forest spoiled Allen and LeDay’s Senior Night last Saturday, but at least the Hokies got revenge. LeDay made it clear after Saturday’s game how unhappy he was, and he made sure it didn’t happen twice in a row. That’s Zach being Zach, and he’ll have to turn right around Thursday and face Florida State’s forest of tall trees.

But that’s for later. For now, enjoy a scowl and another game, courtesy of Zach LeDay. I’ll leave you with this:

 

 

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23 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. No comment on the epic fail dunk attempt at the end of the game? Sort of an exclamation on the whole “tale of two halves” theme. From penthouse (final shot 80 footer) to outhouse (final shot failed dunk). This game just drips with symbolism. Great win Hokies!

  2. I think 3’s are overrated – they’re great when you’re hitting them but we proved we can stay in a game without them even though it was painful to see us miss so many in the 1st half . I like the balanced attack led by LeDay in “beast mode” (he looked more like an NYC kid than one from TX/FL!). I also think that pushing the ball and our offensive movement tired out WF, and so went their shooting. Big win and sweet revenge!

    1. 3s feel very important to us because it’s the way we were able to overcome the poor offensive rebounding and the resulting extra shots we gave away EVERY game once Clark went down. Outlaw’s torrid 3-shooting performance against Miami was the only way we win that game. 3s give you a faster way to get back in the game (of course they can take you out of a game if you miss). Lastly, it appeared Wake played a lot of man-2-man last night, presumably to stop the 3-point barrage and that gave LeDay a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities down low. If they play zone the whole game that might not have happened. Shooting 40% from 3-point is like shooting 60% from 2-point.

  3. It is so hard to play two basketball games in 24 hours when your second opponent is playing rested. If both teams had come into this game rested then Wake’s chances of winning would have been much larger. Unfortunately, I kind of expect the same thing to happen to us tonight. We will probably play a good first half tonight and then FSU will probably wear us down in the second half. Like Will’s tweet I hope I am wrong though.

    1. That’s what happened last year, beat FSU smoothly, then played Miami whom we had beaten the week before. Miami was a good team, but VT was simply disjointed and … well, just tired. (and we still kept it close) Just the nature of the tournament, you better earn a top four seed if you expect to win it all.

      It’s especially a problem with VT, we basically have one horse playing under the basket, Zack. His having plenty of time off is exactly what we needed to win this game against WF (and I’m pretty convinced the team though leave it on the court tonight, don’t worry about tomorrow) He’ll be tired, JRob beat up – kinda what happened last year – etc.

      I’m satisfied, everything is gravy now and it will be an uphill battle against FSU. WF-VT is probably the pattern for all of these games, one team’s played and tired, the other fresh, but a little out of practice, Team one plays well first half, team two, spends the half trying to re-find its mojo. then, 2nd half, fatique hits team one, and team two hits a few, gains confidence….

      We’ll see.

    2. Living in W-S that is all I am hearing from WF fans that they would have won if they didn’t have to play the night before. Guess what? Regular season counts for something which gave us the bye. That being said F$U earned the double bye so can’t use that excuse if things don’t go our way tonight.

      1. that’s what happened to us last year, we beat FSU then played tired and lost to Miami whom we had beaten the week before. So yeah, WF fans have a point, but that’s not how the tournament is set up.

  4. The heave before the half brought back memories of Les Henson’s heave around 1980(?), only his was longer and from the baseline corner. May be on YouTube for you younger Hokies. Big win last night.

  5. Learned my lesson from Saturday’s game. I watched that one – we lost after a 13+ point lead at one time My wife even asked why I wasn’t watching last night – told her I wanted us to win. You’re welcome!

    1. I have the same superstition. The Hokies have won lately when I watch the replay but not the live telecast. I made the mistake of watching live on Saturday but did not make the same mistake and did not watch it live last night. It is only weird if it doesn’t work!

      1. I had to leave and missed the 2nd half of the game Saturday and we lost. Blamed it on my 17 year old. Last night he left at halftime to hang out with girlfriend. Result was win, so he will be banned from the 2nd half tonight.

  6. I shared Will’s uneasy feeling throughout the first half of this game. The Hokies were missing wide open shots and, as Dan Bonner noted a few times, were very sloppy on offense. I fully anticipated that Wake was going to come out and quickly open up a double digit lead in the 2nd half but the Hokies had a different idea. In hindsight they did a great job grinding out the first half and keeping the game within reach while not shooting very well from the outside. When the outside shots started falling it really opened up the rest of the offense and forced Wake Forest to press.

    Great win last night! Hopefully they can use it as some momentum and go on a run for the rest of the ACC tourney. It’s definitely a tough road ahead but any road through the ACC tourney is murderer’s row.

  7. I”m so glad I remembered the ACC Network. The ESPN version was unwatchable. Doris Burke and her weird voice talking thru her teeth and the new female sideline reporter you can’t hear was HORRIBLE. ESPN wonders why it’s losing money and viewers. With all the ACC Legends available to provide color commentary or reporting, they choose to go this route?

    Great Game Hokies!

    1. Agree 100% with your comments about Doris Burke. I muted the entire second half because I cannot stand hearing her speak. ESPN can do better and should be ashamed of having her on the air. Hokies exploded and won a big game – proud to be a Hokie!!!!

    2. I know there will some who think my comment is not politically correct ( and it’s not), but ESPN appears to be on the “We must have women in these roles” mode to be PC. The ladies they have on the air are not good,,,no other way to say it. I personally don’t care if they put women or men in the reporting roles, as long as they are interesting, knowledgeable, entertaining and fair..but it just looks to me that they are trying too hard to be put a face on their network that doesn’t work for the viewers…and I am not talking about ONLY the women reporting the game last night. It’s a trend. On top of that some of the “dead wood” MEN they choose to be front and center shows they are out of sync with their viewers in other ways too. Vitale was great and novel for a long time. Love him but he needs to ride the pine at this point. Bill Walton is an embarrassment, etc. etc.

      1. What does sports have to do with it? This is the entertainment Network…That these people stink at doing sports is NOT EsPN’s concern..nor is sports commentary their goal…It will only get worse. EsPN is just “Entertainment Tonight” against a sports backdrop..

        A bunch of us watched in a Sports Bar in Richmond with no sound turned on..Nobody complained one BIT and we didn’t miss a thing (except perhaps an explanation of the bloody wound on Buzz’s shoulder)…

    3. I agree too about ESPN2, it was obvious they didn’t do any homework or perhaps didn’t care. At one point the dude complemented Buzz Williams on his drive to the hoop. Then Burke called us Georgia Tech. She also seemed to have trouble distinguishing between renumeration and remuneration. I’ve learned my lesson-ACC or IMG is it for me.

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