Virginia Tech’s Thursday night game against Saint Louis can be summed up by the comments made by Buzz Williams on the postgame radio show.
“I thought we were very much fraudulent in what we want to be about, as a team and as a program,” Williams said.
Williams went on to tell the team that he was shocked at the outcome of the game. So was Las Vegas, who had the Hokies as solid 13.5 point favorites on Thursday afternoon.
That didn’t matter though, as the Billikens (3-0) controlled the game and beat Virginia Tech (2-1) 77-71 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The Hokies trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, and though they came back to cut the lead to as little as four points (64-60) late in the contest, it was all for naught.
Virginia Tech was undone by several different aspects of the game. In no particular order of importance, here is a list….
1: The Hokies struggled to stop the ball defensively, allowing far too many shots around the basket, particularly in the first half. Though Saint Louis shot 47.4% for the game, at one point late in the first half they were shooting 55.2%. The Billikens were just 4-of-18 (22.2%) from three-point range, which means they shot a very high percentage around the basket.
2: Justin Robinson picked up his second foul with 17:41 remaining in the first half, and spent the remainder of the half on the bench. He was also knocked out of the game briefly in the second half with an injury, though he returned. Robinson played only 22 minutes, and while he was 9-of-12 from the free throw line, he was 0-of-7 from the field.
3: Tech’s only true center, Kerry Blackshear, also got in foul trouble. He played just 21 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. Backup freshman center PJ Horne, who is just 6-5, played only six minutes, which means the Hokies only played 27 of 40 minutes with a center on the court. The remaining 13 minutes were played by wings masquerading as centers.
4: Partly as a result of Blackshear being on the bench for nearly half the game, Tech was outrebounded 43-33.
5: Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs combined to go 16-of-25. The rest of the team was just 5-of-27. That includes a 3-of-5 effort from Blackshear. Justin Robinson was 0-of-7, and Chris Clarke was 1-of-7. Clarke, however, did pull down 13 rebounds in 22 minutes.
6: As a team, despite Robinson’s performance, the Hokies were only 23-of-36 (63.9%) from the free throw line.
Overall, it was a poor performance from Virginia Tech, who looked very good in a preseason exhibition at South Carolina, and who scored 111 and 132 points against Detroit Mercy and The Citadel in the first two games of the season.
There were only three bright spots during the game. First, Justin Robinson’s injury was not as severe as it first seemed. He was helped to the locker room in the second half, but returned shortly thereafter. Second, Chris Clarke had 13 rebounds in 22 minutes, which is incredible efficiency. And third, Ahmed Hill scored a career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He was 5-of-9 from three-point range.
Highly touted freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who averaged 26.5 points per game in the first two contests, had only four points and was 1-of-7 shooting.
The Hokies return to action on Friday at 5pm when they take on the Washington Huskies, who were narrowly defeated by Providence 77-70 on Thursday in a game a bit closer than the final score indicated. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.