What a difference two days make. On Saturday, Virginia Tech played poorly and lost at home to Florida State 91-82. However, on Monday the Hokies played great and defeated No. 10 North Carolina 80-69 in Cassell Coliseum to improve to 14-6 overall and 3-4 in the ACC. The Tar Heels dropped to 16-5 overall and 5-3 in conference play.
Justin Bibbs said after the Florida State loss that he was feeling a sense of urgency. That’s exactly what the team played like on Monday night, as the Hokies outshot UNC, outdefended them, outrebounded them, and turned the ball over fewer times. Overall, it was Tech’s best defensive performance of the season, as they held Carolina to just 42.9 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from three-point range. Most of the Tar Heels’ shots were contested.
“Yeah, for sure,” Ahmed Hill said, when asked if the Hokies found that sense of urgency on Monday. “I think we found it on defense.”
They also found it in other ways. Virginia Tech outrebounded North Carolina 36-35, which was surprising considering the Tar Heels came into the game No. 1 in the country in rebounding margin. At halftime, the Heels had outscored Tech 9-0 in second chance points, but in the second half that advantage went 9-2 in Virginia Tech’s favor.
“They were No. 1 in the league rebounding, they were No. 1 in the league for opponent offensive rebounding percentage,” Buzz Williams said of UNC. “Obviously, that has been one of two Achilles heels for this year’s team, arguably for every team we have had since we’ve been here.”
Turnovers have also been an issue for the Hokies in their losses this season. However, they committed just nine turnovers against UNC while forcing 13, and held an 11-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I need to do a better job of not putting my teammates in that situation, where they have to downsize,” Blackshear said. “I just tried to stay aggressive on both ends. Just stay engaged on both ends.”
Justin Bibbs did not have a good shooting night, going 3-of-10 from the field, but he had a couple of critical shots late in the game, and he also contributed with five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Chris Clarke came off the bench to finish with eight points and eight rebounds.
North Carolina led for the majority of the first half, though they could never put the Hokies away. Instead, it was the home team that ended the first half on a huge run to take control of things at the intermission.
At the 6:19 mark of the first half, a Cameron Johnson three-pointer made the score 28-21 UNC. At that point, the Hokies turned it up a notch. Nickeil Alexander-Walker responded with a three-point play the old fashioned way, and that sparked an 18-4 Virginia Tech run from that point until the end of the half. That included a buzzer beating three-pointer at the end of the half by Justin Robinson that made the halftime score 39-32 Hokies.
North Carolina had a chance to get back into the game early in the second half. The Hokies missed a lot of open looks in the opening minutes, but the Tar Heels could not take advantage, and still found themselves trailing by seven points, 58-51, with 9:59 remaining in the game. Despite Tech’s inability to make shots at the beginning of the second half, UNC could not close the gap.
In fact, that’s as close as UNC would get. The Hokies steadily extended their lead to as many as 16 points, and they basically dominated the game for the final 26 minutes. The rout was so complete by the final minute that the Virginia Tech student section serenaded departing UNC fans with chants of “Just like football!”
“I think Buzz had his team much more ready to play, more than I had my team,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “They were much more aggressive physically, and mentally into everything that they were doing.”
Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday when they travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Tipoff is scheduled for 8pm, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
Game Notes From Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson scored 19 points. It is his 14th game in double figures this season and the seventh consecutive.
Ahmed Hill scored 18 points. It is his team-leading 15th game in double figures this season.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 16 points. It is his 14th game in double figures this season and the fifth consecutive.
With his eight points, Justin Bibbs passed Jamon Gordon and Wayne Robinson into 26th place in career scoring. He now has 1,285 career points.
The win over the 10th ranked Tar Heels is the Hokies’ first win over a top 10 team since defeating No. 5 Duke, 89-75, in Cassell Coliseum on Dec. 31, 2016.
The win snaps a seven-game losing streak in the all-time series with UNC. This is the Hokies’ first win over the Tar Heels since Feb. 4, 2010, a 74-70 Tech win in Cassell Coliseum.
This is the Hokies’ first win over a defending national champion since defeating No. 1 Duke, 64-60, in Cassell Coliseum on Feb. 26, 2011.