BLACKSBURG, Va. — Seth Allen made a go-ahead layup with 25 seconds left vs. Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, giving Virginia Tech men’s basketball a bounce-back 62-61 win over the Yellow Jackets.
Allen’s layup came off of a broken play, where Allen was forced to attack the rim. He finished inside, despite contact. Georgia Tech’s Quinton Stephens missed a buzzer-beater from mid-range that would’ve sent the Hokies to their second-straight loss at home.
After the game, head coach Buzz Williams thought his team was able to make more “winning plays” on Wednesday night, which wasn’t the case in Virginia Tech’s loss to Notre Dame last Sunday.
“Better for sure. Better for sure,” Williams said. “I thought (Justin Robinson)’s charge was a huge play. Seth’s tip, huge play. I thought there were several, I don’t know if scrum would be the right media word for it, on the floor, near our basket, kind of, sort of in the air at our basket… I thought we came up with more than we have been.”
Allen’s layup was one of those winning plays. Virginia Tech ran a ball screen with Allen and Zach LeDay, but it did nothing.
“I threw it to Zach because I thought he was wide open, because I was getting double-teamed by their big off the screen,” Allen said. “Zach made a play, he passed it back and I just tried to make a play at the rim so I could get fouled or we could get an offensive rebound.”
Justin Bibbs jokingly said after the game that he should have gotten the ball on the final possession.
“I thought I was wide open, and Zach should’ve threw me the ball,” Bibbs said. “Seth made a great play. Thank God he made it.”
Bibbs felt confident, and rightfully so. He came into Wednesday night’s game hitting seven of his last 28 three-point attempts. He seemed to have found his range vs. Georgia Tech, going 3-8 from behind the arc.
“It was a big relief,” Bibbs said. “I’ve just got to keep shooting.”
Allen and LeDay led the Hokies in scoring with 17 points each. The two were a combined 12-19 from the floor and 7-9 from the free throw line. Chris Clarke finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Stephens shot the ball well for the Yellow Jackets, hitting five threes. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“He leads the league in blocked shots. He averages 1.7 fouls per game in ACC play,” Williams said of Lammers. “That is a crazy stat. You lead the league in blocks, you’re second in the league in free throw percentage, you’re third in rebounding and you average 1.2 fouls, and you average 36 minutes a game.”
“He shows zero emotion, but he has an incredibly blue-collar work ethic,” Williams said. “His skill set, you want something to be flashy, it’s not flashy but it’s very productive. There’s a lot of pros in our league. He will be a long-time pro, because of all the things I just rattled off.”
Lammers anchored a Georgia Tech defense that stifled the Hokies for much of the night. Virginia Tech turned the ball over 13 times and shot 40 percent from the field for the game. The Hokies started 2-8 from the field in the opening minutes and looked out of sync offensively. Lammers was excellent near the rim, blocking eight shots in 38 minutes.
“You just never get in a rhythm,” Williams said of Georgia Tech’s defense. “I agree with what Josh (Pastner) is doing… It’s choppy. Maybe as you guys are watching it…. there’s not a low of flow. When you saw flow from us, it was when we were able to get a stop and score in transition.”
“Georgia Tech is a great defensive team,” Allen said. “They switch their defenses up. They switch from zone, to matchup, to 1-3-1, to man. It’s really hard to get a flow with them.”
The Yellow Jackets swarmed the Hokies early on and turned a 10-0 run into a 12-4 lead with 13:10 left in the first half. Virginia Tech responded with a 9-2 run to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to one just three minutes later.
Virginia Tech closed the first half strong and trailed at halftime 29-28. For shooting 10-28 from the field, being down just one point turned out to be a blessing.
“They make the game really ugly because they switch defenses every possession,” LeDay said. “You never know what they’re going to throw at you.”
The Hokies owned the early part of the second half, taking a 49-40 lead with 11:15 left to play. Instead of putting the Yellow Jackets away, the Hokies allowed Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie to score six straight points, once again making it a one possession game.
“We had some turnovers that got them in transition, got them running,” LeDay said. “They hit some big shots in the end. When we stopped turning the ball over and we started protecting the ball, we held them to one shot, that helped us out.”
The two Techs traded baskets for the remainder of the second half. Virginia Tech continued to attack the rim and drew multiple fouls, allowing the Hokies to redeem themselves from the free throw line after their struggles vs. Notre Dame. The Hokies went 12-16 from the free throw line against Georgia Tech.
After LeDay made two foul shots with 1:06 remaining, Lammers put Georgia Tech ahead with his sixth basket of the night. Williams then called timeout to set up the final play where Allen finished at the rim.
“You’ve got to make big plays in this league,” Allen said. “Every game is going to be like a one possession game. I think with this team, we’ve been pushed to the edge so much that one possession games really don’t rattle us that much. We’re tough enough to play as hard as possible at the very end.”
Georgia Tech turned it over on their next possession after a failed alley-oop attempt with about ten seconds left and were forced to foul, but Justin Robinson missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving Georgia Tech one more chance. Stephens brought the ball up and got off a shot from inside the arc, but couldn’t get it to fall.
“We just focused on our toughness,” Bibbs said. “Notre Dame made a lot of tough plays against us and we tried to change that around this time. I think we did.”
Virginia Tech’s win was important for multiple reasons. The Hokies are now 3-3 in ACC play and seemed to learn from their mistakes down the stretch vs. Notre Dame. Virginia Tech now enters a grueling stretch, playing four of their next five (and six of their next eight) on the road. The Hokies will play Clemson and North Carolina away from home, before returning to host Boston College.
“It’s a major week for us,” Bibbs said. “Obviously, we’ve struggled on the road. We’ve just got to focus on defense, and that’s what it is. Our offense is going to come, but it’s our defense on the road.”
“We’ve just got to use this as momentum on the road,” Allen said. “Trying to win a road game is really important for us. Those road games really come to help you at the end of the season. We’ve just got to stick together and build off of this.”
Clarke late to shootaround, comes off bench
Buzz Williams told the media after the game that Chris Clarke was late to the team’s pregame shootaround, which led to him coming off of the bench. Ty Outlaw started in Clarke’s place, grabbing four rebounds and blocking one shot in 11 minutes. Off the bench, Clarke scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.