Three-point shooting had been a struggle recently for Virginia Tech, until Wednesday night. The Hokies got their outside shooting groove back in an 83-75 victory over Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Tech improved to 13-4 overall and 2-2 in the ACC with the win, while the Demon Deacons dropped to 8-8 overall and 1-3 in conference play.
Justin Bibbs entered Wednesday’s game having shot just 2-of-17 (11.8%) from three-point range against ACC opponents, and only 7-of-29 (24.1%) overall against conference foes. He got things turned around against Wake Forest, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including a 3-of-6 mark from the outside. He also had three assists and no turnovers in 38 minutes.
As good as Bibbs was, it was Ahmed Hill who led the team with 21 points. He was 7-of-12 overall, and 5-of-10 from three-point range. Justin Robinson added 13 points and seven assists, while Kerry Blackshear had 10 points and six rebounds despite playing only 21 minutes because of foul trouble. Chris Clarke came off the bench to score 14 points and grab six rebounds.
As a team, Virginia Tech was 28-of-57 (50.9%) from the field and 12-of-28 (42.9%) from three-point range. Heading into the contest, the Hokies were 28-of-112 (25%) from the outside since the second half of the Kentucky game. They desperately needed their outside shots to start falling again, especially when playing on the road. They weren’t quite as good in the second half, but for the first half Tech shot 63% from the field and 50% from three-point range.
Virginia Tech never trailed against the Demon Deacons. A late first half run saw the Hokies take a 45-30 lead into the halftime intermission, and it looked like they would coast to the win. However, a pair of Wake Forest runs in the second half threatened the Hokies, though Wake could never take the lead or even tie the game.
The Demon Deacons opened the second half on a 9-0 run to close within 45-39 with 16:21 left in the game. However, three consecutive three-pointers by Justin Bibbs, Kerry Blackshear and Ahmed Hill pushed Tech’s lead back to 54-39 with 14:18 remaining. They kept the lead in double figures for a large stretch of the remainder of the game, even extending it to 17 points at 61-44 with 11:42 left in the game.
Wake was able to climb back into the game late, getting as close as four points when Brandon Childress made a three-pointer to make the score 70-66 with 2:48 remaining. That was the end of a long 16-8 run that spanned nearly seven minutes, and it gave the home team life at the end of the game. However, it wasn’t to be. The Hokies responded with an “and-1” by Justin Robinson, who grabbed a Kerry Blackshear airball and laid it in to extend the lead to 73-66. Then Robinson scored again on a breakaway layup to make the score 75-66 with 1:06 remaining. It was the second game in a row in which Chris Clarke has hit Robinson on a deep ball on an inbounds pass.
In all, Robinson had 11 points in the last 1:54 of the game, including 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
Wake Forest never got within six points the rest of the way, and the Hokies led by as many as 10 points down the stretch. It was not a perfect game for Tech by any standard, but it does represent Wake’s largest margin of defeat in ACC play this season. They lost to UNC by four on the road, defeated Syracuse at home, and lost to Boston College on the road by six points.
More importantly, it’s a road win for the Hokies, which was much needed before they begin to run a gauntlet of very difficult games coming up: at Louisville, vs. Florida State, vs. North Carolina, and at Notre Dame. Virginia Tech has yet to pick up a Top 50 win to put on their March Madness resume this year, but there are plenty of opportunities coming up.
One alarming note for Virginia Tech over the last few games is that Buzz Williams’ bench has shortened quite a bit. As the competition has gotten tougher, Williams has been less inclined to play his freshmen. Here is how the minutes broke down on Wednesday night…
Justin Bibbs: 38
Ahmed Hill: 34
Justin Robinson: 32
Chris Clarke: 32
Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 23
Kerry Blackshear: 21
Devin Wilson: 9
Wabissa Bede: 9
PJ Horne: 2
That’s something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into ACC play.
Virginia Tech returns to action this Saturday when they travel to Louisville. Tipoff is scheduled for 4pm, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.