Virginia Tech has lived by the three-pointer as of late, but died by it on Saturday afternoon.
The Hokies shot just 3-13 from behind the arc in the second half vs. Wake Forest, and thanks to 21 free throw attempts in the final 20 minutes, the Demon Deacons picked up a resume-boosting victory inside Cassell Coliseum by a score of 89-84.
“We tried a lot of different things in the second half — none of it was great,” Williams said. “I think the thing that really hurt us was the 33 free throw attempts. I would say that’s a record since I’ve been here, for sure in the ACC, maybe overall. It’s just so hard to overcome. That’s what we want to be.”
The discrepancy at the free throw line allowed Wake Forest to dig themselves out of an 11-point hole early in the second half, when Virginia Tech led 55-44. From that point on, Wake outscored Virginia Tech 45-29. The Demon Deacons shot 60.9 percent from the floor and made 17 free throws in the second half. In comparison, Virginia Tech went 16-17 from the line for the entire game.
After the game, Williams seemed less than pleased with the officials.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff, I haven’t seen some of the stuff there that I saw at the end,” Williams said. “That’s alright. If in our last home game, that’s who the conference commissioner of officials wants to send us, then that’s just part of it.”
Virginia Tech’s seniors led the way on Senior Night as Seth Allen and Zach LeDay combined for 44 points. Allen scored 20 points on 9-15 shooting while LeDay scored a team-high 24 on 9-10 shooting. Justin Robinson added 17 points, while Ty Outlaw and Justin Bibbs scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Wake Forest star John Collins dealt with foul trouble throughout the game, but figured things out in the second half, scoring all 13 of his points after the break. Bryant Crawford led the way for Wake Forest, scoring 26 points. Crawford was 13-14 from the free throw line and added five assists.
“It was all on us. Bad communication,” LeDay said. “They were getting open shots, they were driving us, it was everything. We’ve just got to get into the film room and watch where we made mistakes and correct it. Forget about this loss going into the ACC Tournament.”
The Hokies gradually outpaced Wake Forest early in the first half, thanks to hot shooting and timely defense. Wake Forest’s Collins was nowhere to be found, mostly due to great low post defense from LeDay and Khadim Sy. A Robinson drive to the rim with 7:43 left in the first half put Collins on the bench with three fouls, giving Virginia Tech a 30-22 lead. Those free throws ignited a 9-2 run, pushing the Hokies’ advantage to 13 with just under six minutes before halftime.
LeDay admitted that at that point, it seemed like Virginia Tech had taken control.
“It did, then they started hitting threes,” LeDay said. “They took (Collins) out and they started spreading the floor, and they hit threes. They kept getting open shots. They were really productive all around, with him in or out of the game.”
Wake Forest clawed back in the latter minutes of the first half, even cutting the lead to three on multiple occasions. Still, Virginia Tech lead 47-42 heading into the break.
Virginia Tech’s defense became porous in the second half. Six straight points from Collins helped cut the Hokies’ lead to 60-57 with 13:46 left to play. Wake Forest continued to find good looks offensively and with 9:56 remaining, they took just their second lead of the game.
“I thought we did a better job of moving the basketball and driving gaps,” Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning said. “The ball was sticking a little bit too much in the first half. For us, we’ve been a team that can score points. For us, it’s defensively and rebounding the ball. To me, that’s probably where we made our biggest adjustment in the second half. We committed to guarding a little bit more.”
“When they’re shooting at that high of a clip and shooting that many free throws, that’s difficult,” Williams said.
Virginia Tech regained the lead shortly thereafter, but Wake pulled ahead for good after an and-one by Crawford. He would follow that with a three, giving Wake a 75-70 lead with 6:16 to go. Crawford showed up big down the stretch, scoring 13 points in the final 8:14 of game time.
After the game, Williams said his team lacked the energy that they’ve played with in this recent stretch. Coming into Saturday’s game, Virginia Tech had won five of their last six.
“I think at BC, quick turn vs. Miami, I think there was an exhale,” Williams said. “I think Wake is really good, I think they can score it as well as any team in the league, but I don’t think that we played with the heightened level of energy that we have to play with. I think Ty (Outlaw) being in foul trouble in the first half, Ty in foul trouble in the second half, Seth (Allen) in foul trouble in the first half… it was the most foul trouble we’ve absorbed since Chris got hurt. Not playing with the energy, I don’t think it was bad, I just don’t think it was elite. I think we’ve been playing with elite level energy.”
Virginia Tech has clinched a seven-seed heading into the ACC Tournament. The Hokies will play the winner of Boston College and Wake Forest in the first round. That game is scheduled for 7:00 on Wednesday, March 8. The game should be televised on ESPN2.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
Zach LeDay scored 24 points. That is his 28th game in double figures this season. It is his fifth game of the season with at least 20 points. He also had 10 rebounds, for his fifth double-double of the season and the 17th of his Virginia Tech career.
LeDay scored his 1,000th point as a Virginia Tech Hokie in today’s game. He now has 1,010 points at Tech.
Seth Allen scored 20 points. That is his 21st game in double figures this season and his third game of 20-or-more points.
Justin Robinson scored 17 points. It is his 18th game this season in double figures.
Ty Outlaw scored 11 points. That is his fifth game in double figures this season. It is his third consecutive and fourth in the last five games.
Justin Bibbs scored 10 points. It is his 14th game in double figures this season.
The Hokies are the seventh seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. They receive a first-round bye and will play at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night against the winner of the Boston College – Wake Forest game, to be played on Tuesday night.
The Hokies are now 32-31 all-time against Wake Forest.