Virginia Tech gave a noble effort, but ultimately fell to No. 8 Kentucky 93-86 in Rupp Arena thanks to turnovers and second chance points. The Hokies dropped to 9-2 with the loss, while the Wildcats improved to 9-1.
Tech led 47-41 at halftime, and actually spent 15:32 of the 40 minutes in the lead. There were a total off 11 lead changes, and the game was back-and-forth for nearly all 40 minutes, with neither team ever leading by more than eight points.
Unfortunately, it was the Hokies who came out on the short end because of turnovers and second chance points. Tech outrebounded Kentucky 16-14 in the first half and limited damage on the offensive glass, but they couldn’t sustain it in the second half, especially when Kerry Blackshear was whistled for two quick fouls in the first 46 seconds. The bigger Wildcats pulled down a total of 14 offensive rebounds and scored 18 second chance points.
However, the real damage came off turnovers. The Hokies turned the ball over 19 times, and many were live ball turnovers. Those turnovers led to 36 Kentucky points, which was the deciding factor in the game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats turned it over just 11 times, and Tech could only turn them into 13 points.
The turnover problem marred another impressive offensive performance for Tech, who was able to score at will for the majority of the game. The Hokies were 32-of-55 (58.2%) from the field and 10-of-22 (45.5%) from three-point range. Even with those impressive shooting numbers, they couldn’t quite keep up with the Wildcats over 40 minutes of basketball. Kentucky went 11-of-22 (50%) from three-point range, which marked their best three-point output of the season.
Blackshear’s foul trouble arguably hurt the Hokies more than anything besides the turnovers. He scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes, and Kentucky had trouble handling him in the paint. However, with Blackshear on the bench for a large portion of the second half, it was difficult for Virginia Tech to compete on the boards.
Besides Blackshear, several other Hokies had standpoint games. Ahmed Hill paced the team with 20 points, and he was 5-of-7 from three-point range. Justin Robinson scored 19 points and dished out nine assists in 38 minutes of action. Justin Bibbs added 12 points, while Chris Clarke finished with nine points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.
Virginia Tech was still in this game at the end thanks to an impressive offensive performance. A deep three-pointer from Ahmed Hill brought the Hokies within two points, 85-83, with 1:17 remaining. If Tech could get a stop on the other end, they would have a chance to tie or take the lead with under a minute remaining.
That didn’t happen. Tech had a solid defensive possession, but Hamidou Diallo hit a three-pointer from the corner with a hand in his face with 50 seconds remaining to put the Wildcats back up by five, 88-83. That was the shot that finally broke the Hokies, and they could get no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Despite the defeat, the Hokies showed they could play with a top 10 team on the road, and even control the game for certain stretches. Tech will return to action on Tuesday night when they host Presbyterian in Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game can be viewed online on ACC Network Extra.