Virginia Tech overcame a slow start offensively to defeat Nebraska 66-53 in the third place game of the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Anaheim on Sunday afternoon. The Hokies improved to 5-1 overall, while the Cornhuskers dropped to 4-2.
The Hokies were coming off a tough 68-65 loss to Texas A&M in which they blew a 17-point lead over the final 14:55 of the game. They began Sunday’s game just as bad as they ended Friday’s, making just four of their first 22 shots, including a 1-of-14 stretch to start the game.
Despite the cold streak, Tech never stopped playing defense, and as a result they were able to hang around, and in fact never trailed by more than six points in the first half. They made four of their last five shots before halftime, and trailed just 26-23 at the break. Despite trailing, the Hokies were in the game. Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill combined for zero points and five turnovers in the first half, and that wasn’t going to continue.
Virginia Tech got it together at halftime. They were able to get the ball into the paint more effectively, and they started knocking down the open outside jumpers that they were missing in the first half. Zach LeDay threw down two thunderous one-handed dunks to open the second half, and the Hokies slowly began to establish dominance over the less talented Cornhusker squad.
LeDay paced the Hokies with 19 points, and he also had a team-high nine rebounds. He filled up the stat sheet in other ways as well, dishing out four assists and recording three blocks. Robinson and Hill finally came alive, combining for 20 points over the final 20 minutes (eight for Robinson, 12 for Hill). Robinson had a team-high five assists, but he also had an uncharacteristic six turnovers. On Thursday against New Mexico, he had zero turnovers in 40 minutes.
Besides the slow shooting start, turnovers were the main reason the Hokies didn’t put Nebraska away earlier. Tech came into the game averaging under 10 turnovers per game. They had 17 against the Cornhuskers.
Despite all that, the Hokies had more talent, and they were gradually able to increase their lead. Buzz Williams probably isn’t pleased with how they Hokies closed the game. Some of the problems included…
1: A few bad turnovers down the stretch.
2: Two fouls away from the ball, including one nearly 90 feet from the basket that gave Nebraska free throws.
3: A technical foul on Zach LeDay after he blocked a shot, which also gave Nebraska free throws.
Still, Tech won the game with defense, free throw shooting, and the fact that their offense finally came alive in the second half. Here’s a comparison of the shooting percentages for both teams…
FG: VT 21-of-50 (42%), Nebraska 17-of-57 (29.8)
3Pt: VT 8-of-18 (44.4%), Nebraska 4-of-21 (19%)
Tech was also 16-of-22 (72.7%) from the free throw line, and they were able to knock down critical free throws down the stretch despite their carelessness with the ball. They shot 56.5% from the field in the second half.
The Hokies end their trip to Anaheim with a 2-1 record. They will play #25 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Wednesday night as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised by ESPN2.