Virginia Tech had yet another disappointing home loss, this time falling to Miami 84-75 in Cassell Coliseum on ESPN on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies dropped to 16-7 overall and 5-5 in the ACC. Miami improved to 17-5 overall, and 6-4 in conference play.
Two weeks ago, Virginia Tech did not give maximum effort in a home loss to Florida State. With their backs against the wall, the Hokies came back out to defeat UNC two days later, and then went on to win road games at Notre Dame and Boston College. However, the team was back to their Florida State form against Miami, and it is frustrating head coach Buzz Williams.
Following the game, Williams noted specifically that his team’s energy level isn’t where he needs it to be.
“I wish I could attest to why,” Williams said. “Obviously it’s my fault to not be prepared after the last 10 or 12 days as a program.”
After jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead, Virginia Tech fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first half. Their issues came mostly on the defensive end, where they struggled to stop the ball and allowed far too many good Miami looks around the basket.
Later in the first half, Williams pulled some of his regulars, and instead opted to play freshmen such as Wabissa Bede and PJ Horne. Those players gave the Hokies a spark, and they performed better on the defensive end. Horne had eight points and seven rebounds as Kerry Blackshear’s replacement. Blackshear had just two points and one rebound in 15 minutes. He was not benched for foul trouble, but because of his effort. Blackshear wasn’t the only Hokie to draw Williams’ ire.
“No moxy, no toughness defensively,” Williams said of his team on his postgame radio show.
“I didn’t think collectively we played hard enough,” he said to the media. “We don’t have a margin to overcome lack of toughness, lack of playing hard.”
The performance was particularly disappointing considering the Hokies had won three games in a row, and a great crowd showed up in Cassell Coliseum ready to make a lot of noise. However, they didn’t have much to cheer about until the second half. At halftime, the Hurricanes led 44-32 despite the best efforts of backups such as Bede and Horne.
Once the Hokies focused in, they rallied and nearly came back. They threatened Miami late in the game, when a personal 6-0 run by Justin Bibbs made the score 66-61 with 4:25 remaining. On Miami’s next possession, Justin Robinson got a steal midcourt and went the distance for a dunk, making the score 66-63 with 3:51 remaining. At that point the Hokies had the momentum, and it appeared they had a great chance to capitalize and win the game.
It wasn’t to be. Miami made shots on three of their next four possessions, and that 3-point margin was as close as the Hokies got. The Hurricanes made their free throws down the stretch to close out the game, and Tech could only look back at their poor first half performance in frustration.
Virginia Tech played very good defense for the majority of the second half, which allowed them to get back into the game. Miami shot just 42.9% from the field over the final 20 minutes after shooting 58.6% in the first half. The Hurricanes also had more turnovers (13) than assists (9). Still, the Hokies lost because they couldn’t stop the ball in the first half. Williams’ comments following the game show that he feels Tech’s effort was the main reason they struggled defensively.
“We didn’t handle our success very well,” he said. “We’ve proven that we know how to handle failure, but we haven’t proven that we know how to handle success…that’s what’s disappointing.”
The Hokies will hope to handle failure well yet again when NC State arrives in Blacksburg on Wednesday. Tech will face the Wolfpack in a 9pm game that game will be televised by RSN. Click here for affiliates showing the game.
Game Notes From Virginia Tech
It was announced this morning that next week’s game at Virginia will be ESPN’s College GameDay Game of the Week. The game, shown on ESPN, will tip at 6:15 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena.
Justin Robinson scored 22 points. It is his team-high 17th game in double figures this season and his 10th consecutive. He has scored in double figures in all 10 ACC games this season. It is also his third game of 20-or-more points this season.
Justin Bibbs scored 16 points. It is his 15th game in double figures this season.
Bibbs passed Les Henson into 22nd place in career scoring at Virginia Tech. He now has 1,339 career points.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 15 points. It is his 12th game in double figures this season.
P.J. Horne grabbed a career-high seven rebounds. He also played a career-high 23 minutes.
The announced crowd was 9,275. This marks Tech’s fifth sellout of the season.