Second half foul trouble for Zach LeDay doomed #7 seed Virginia Tech, and the Hokies fell to #2 seed Florida State 74-68 in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night. The Seminoles, ranked #16 in the country, improved to 25-7 overall with the win. Tech is now 22-10 on the season, and they’ll find out their NCAA Tournament destination on Sunday night.
Virginia Tech led much of this game, but Zach LeDay picked up his fourth foul with the Hokies up 52-50, and Florida State used his absence to embark on a big run to take control of the game. Tech did rally late, and they nearly cut the lead to three points with just over 30 seconds remaining, but the officials swallowed their whistles when Seth Allen was fouled on a shot attempt, and Florida State’s win was all but guaranteed at that point.
LeDay’s exit with foul trouble was huge, and it was an unfortunate turn of events for the Hokies. They led 52-50 and had just gotten a stop, but Justin Bibbs and Seth Allen had a miscommunication. Bibbs thought Allen was going to continue running up the court, so he lobbed a pass out ahead, but instead Allen turned back to come for the ball. Either pass would have worked, but unfortunately the two players weren’t on the same page. Florida State secured the ball, and it was on that extra possession that LeDay picked up his fourth foul.
Dwayne Bacon tied the game at 52 with a jumper on that possession at the 9:17 mark of the second half. It was the first shot of a 13-0 Florida State run, and the first 11 of those points came with LeDay on the bench. Buzz Williams had to use his final timeout at the 6:24 mark to get LeDay back into the game, and though the Hokies outscored Florida State by three points from that point to the end of the game, it wasn’t enough.
You can break the game down into three sections…
Section 1: Virginia Tech outscored Florida State 52-50 with LeDay not in foul trouble.
Section 2: Florida State outscored Virginia Tech 11-0 with LeDay on the bench.
Section 3: Virginia Tech outscored Florida State 16-13 with LeDay back in the game.
LeDay’s absence helped Florida State exploit Virginia Tech’s biggest weaknesses: lack of depth and size. The Seminoles play 12 players, while the Hokies have a 7-man rotation. When LeDay went out, Buzz Williams first used a 5-guard lineup with Ty Outlaw playing center, and then he went with Khadim Sy. After Sy had two bad turnovers, Williams finally relented and called his final timeout to get LeDay back into the game.
LeDay had 31 points and 15 rebounds in Tech’s win over Wake Forest on Wednesday, and he had another impressive performance against a huge Florida State lineup. The senior forward finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. He was 6-of-12 from the floor and an impressive 10-of-12 from the free throw line. With his successful two days in Brooklyn, LeDay is likely to be selected for the ACC All-Tournament team.
Fellow senior Seth Allen finished the game with 17 points. Justin Robinson added 14 points and six assists despite playing with an ankle injury that he sustained against Wake Forest. Robinson left the game early to have his ankle re-taped, but returned shortly thereafter and played 35 minutes, second only to Allen’s 36 minutes.
Despite the loss, the Hokies had a good showing in the ACC Tournament. They added to their resume by beating Wake Forest, their fifth Top 50 win of the season. Then they gave Florida State, a likely #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, all they could handle.
With a Top 50 RPI ranking, 22 overall wins, two Top 25 RPI wins and three other RPI wins between #26 and #50, the Hokies are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. As a reminder, they were #61 in the RPI and had just one Top 50 win when they were one of the first teams left out of the tournament in 2011. As of today, most sites list Virginia Tech as a #8 or #9 seed, though CBS’s Jerry Palm had them as a #7 before the loss to the Seminoles.
Virginia Tech will host an NCAA Selection Show watch party in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday. Doors will open at 4:30pm, free pizza will be served, and free t-shirts will be available to the first 1,000 fans. The NCAA Tournament Selection show will begin at 5:30pm, and it will be broadcast on the video boards inside Cassell. A special Tech Talk Live will be aired from the coliseum following the Selection Show.