Alabama Ends Virginia Tech’s Season, 86-83

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit
Justin Robinson Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson (5) and Justin Bibbs (10) exit the floor as Alabama celebrates their 86-83 win over Virginia Tech in the NCAA Tournament (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Pittsburgh, PA – In a close, hard-fought NCAA Tournament matchup, ninth-seeded Alabama torched eighth-seeded Virginia Tech’s defense for 60 percent shooting from the field, and the Crimson Tide beat a Hokies team bedeviled by foul trouble, 86-83.

Collin Sexton gets all the publicity for the Tide, and he led Alabama with 25 points. But the real story for Alabama was fellow freshman guard John Petty, who made 6-of-8 three pointers and finished with 20 points. The Hokies could have withstood Sexton’s scoring output, some of which came from the free throw line (where he was 10-of-14) in the last minute as the Hokies fouled and played catchup. But Petty, a 10.1 points per game scorer and 36.2% three-point shooter coming in, was too much for Tech to overcome.

“He’s so long, and can really, really shoot,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said afterwards of Petty. “Obviously, he’s a high-level specialist as a shooter.”

It was the first time Virginia Tech had given up more than 75 points since losing to Miami back on February 3, 84-75.

Virginia Tech was led by their guards and wings. Justin Robinson (19 points), Justin Bibbs (17 points) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (15 points) combined for 51 of Tech’s 83 points, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and 7-of-16 from three-point range. For a time, they were able to match Alabama’s hot shooting, particularly early in the game. But after shooting 68 percent in the first half, the Hokies fell to 44.8 percent in the second half and couldn’t hold on to a two-point halftime lead.

Alabama shot consistently all game long, making 59.3 percent in the first half and 60.9 percent in the second half. This was Virginia Tech’s third straight loss after leading at half, after starting the season 18-1 in such games.

Virginia Tech guard Devin Wilson, playing close to home in the final game of his college career, said of Alabama’s potent offensive night, “They got a couple open looks, whether from us slipping or bad communication. They got a lot of looks, and down the stretch got open shots. Hats off to them, they played really well tonight.”

Buzz Williams added, “I thought too oftentimes our first line of defense on the help side didn’t do their job, and now the ball’s going downhill to our second line. And then we’re in rotation too often.”

The Hokies also struggled defensively on the interior, giving up eight dunks to Alabama, most of them in the half-court offense. The Tide’s Donta Hall, who was questionable before the game due to a concussion suffered in the SEC Tournament, returned to score ten points, all of them on dunks. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.

Kerry Blackshear Virginia Tech
Kerry Blackshear fouled out in just 18 minutes, with eight points and two rebounds. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Part of Virginia Tech’s difficulty on defense came due to foul trouble for Kerry Blackshear, who fouled out in just 18 minutes of play. Blackshear picked up two fouls in the first 5:31 of the game and sat for most of the first half, playing just six minutes before intermission. He played most of the early part of the second half and fared well, but then committed his last two fouls in a span of one minute and 20 seconds. Blackshear finished with eight points and just two rebounds.

Virginia Tech was able to overcome the early absence of Blackshear by torching the nets for 68 percent shooting in the first half, including 7-of-9 from three-point range, and the Hokies led 43-41 at the break. Bibbs was perfect in the first half, scoring 11 points and making all four of his shots, including three from behind the arc. But in the second half, he was only 2-of-8 from the field.

The game was back and forth, with neither team leading by more than five points for most of the game. Ten ties occurred from the start of the game until 8:28 remained, when Sexton hit a jumper to knot it at 63. That started a 9-1 run that put the Tide up 70-64 with 5:10 to go, and Alabama started to smell the win. Blackshear fouled out 18 seconds before Sexton’s shot, and the Hokies battled back to within two points on two different occasions, 70-68 and 72-70 with 2:47 left.

But then two things did the Hokies in:

  • With 2:08 left, Petty hit the last of his six three-pointers to put the Tide up 75-70.
  • With Alabama leading 78-74, Justin Robinson stole an inbounds pass. With 48 seconds left, he drove into the lane and scored, but he was called for a charging foul.

Not only was the basket waved off, but it was Robinson’s fifth foul. Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams turned and smacked his towel on the scorer’s table and was called immediately for a technical foul.

Buzz Williams Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams picked up a key technical foul after a critical charging call on Justin Robinson (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

“I shouldn’t have had the towel in my hand,” Williams said of the technical. “I think that made it look worse. I thought it was a block [on Alabama]. John Cal, who I’ve known forever, was at the game. He told me later it was a charge. So he said it was the right call.”

Sexton made one of the resulting free throws, putting Alabama up 79-74, and the rest of the game was an Alabama parade to the free throw line. The Hokies never got closer than four points the rest of the way, until a tip-in by Tyrie Jackson at the final buzzer made it 86-83.

Blackshear and Robinson were joined in fouling out by Wabissa Bede, who played ten minutes and scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, but who also racked up five fouls. For the game, Virginia Tech was called for 22 fouls to 18 for Alabama, but five of Tech’s fouls came after Robinson fouled out with 48 seconds to go.

There was no single statistic where Alabama dominated Virginia Tech. Most of the team stats were close, including rebounds (26-22 in favor of the Tide), offensive rebounds (10-10), second chance points (10-9 Alabama), fastbreak points (11-8 Alabama) and turnovers (17-14 in Tech’s favor). Ultimately, it was Petty’s shooting, Virginia Tech’s relatively cool second-half shooting, and the concentration of fouls for Blackshear and Justin Robinson (who still managed to play 31 minutes) that did Virginia Tech in.

This was close, as 8-9 games should be. Virginia Tech just came up on the short end.

“I thought tonight was a great game,” Buzz Williams said, “and it just didn’t come out on the end we wanted it to.”

The game closes out the careers of Justin Bibbs and Devin Wilson (23 minutes, zero points and just one rebound).  At one point in post-game interviews, Bibbs broke down and couldn’t answer a question, and Wilson had to answer it for him.

Justin Bibbs Virginia Tech
For Justin Bibbs, the loss to Alabama was his last game in a Virginia Tech uniform. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

“It’s hard to answer these questions amidst all the emotion,” Williams said of his two seniors, “but the journey that  those two guys have been on, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to repay them, as far as how hard they’ve worked and how they’ve represented our program, on and off the floor.”

The loss is a bitter pill. All NCAA Tournament losses are. Buzz Williams has taken Virginia Tech to two straight NCAA Tournaments, and with nearly all of his roster returning next season, he has the Hokies on track for an unprecedented three-straight NCAA bids.

“Getting here is incredibly hard, and we’re thankful for that, and we are striving to continue to get better,” Williams said. “But the higher you go, the altitude changes. It’s harder to breathe.”

Williams acknowledges that starting to win NCAA games is the “the next step we have to take.”

That will have to wait at least one more year, though.

“The body of work that we’ve accomplished since we’ve been here,” Devin Wilson said, “you can hold your head high to that and focus on that. Other than that, it’s not the best feeling in the world.”

Virginia Tech Box Score

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

31 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. we got hustled by a team of heavy destroyers. They may actually give Nova a game, they certainly have the physicality to stay in the game. As noted by others, and in my opinion, the game was lost due to way too many poorly shot balls going in for Bama and way too few attempted foul shots going in for VT…we easily could have been a 6-8 point victor had lady luck not interceded for Bama and we got stage fright at the line.

  2. We are on the cusp of being a really good team. That applies to football also. I have to say that except for a few exceptional years, we have been on that cusp a long time in both sports. I look forward to the day that we have enough athletes to compete with the big boys. I am thankful for what our team and coaches have done this year. Go Hokies!!

  3. The first foul called against Blackshear was absurd. He was stationary outside the “O can do what they want arc” when the Tide big man dropped the ball toward his feet. As he bent down and forward to retrieve it HE bumped Blackshear’ s shins. Now that one deserves a “Who me” look for real. The call on 5 when he rotated left to begin a drive against Sexton also was bogus. 5 made a legal offensive move nanoseconds before Sexton lunged forward toward 5’s right hip in an attempt to swat the ball. That put Sexton’ s head right in the track of 5’s move with the ball. That call was clearly the worst I have ever seen. So there you have 2 calls that burned 20% of the allowable fouls for 2 of VT’s most essential players in a 3 point game which sucks regardless of how much self-esteem inflicted damage we did to ourselves.

  4. Bama got a bit of luck at times, but so did VT. To shoot 60% consistently is not luck, though. They had a great night and outplayed Tech when it counted. I was really disappointed with KB. With two fast fouls at the start, and the continued reaching-in stuff, it was one of his worst “foul prone” nights. Bama has some really good players. The better team won. It could have gone either way. Gonna be interesting to see how they fare against ‘Nova. It looks like a good match up for Bama if they play like they did against us.

    1. KJ was hosed by at least 2 of his fouls. First one :30 in was absurd, THREE of JRobs were bad calls

  5. Bama made too many unintentional bank shots, impossible fade-aways, and “what the hell do I do now, I guess I’ll shoot” buckets. And Tech had too many unforced errors. I’m not sure how many times a sharp (but accurate) pass bounced off of the receiver’s hands, but there were at least 3. As close as the game was, a miss by Bama on one of their lucky shots and a clean catch and shoot by Tech on one or two turnovers and the last two minutes could have been Bama fouling Tech trying to catch up. For the most part it was an even game and both sides played well enough to win. And both sides were upset with the refs, which usually means neither side got an advantage. Unfortunately Lady Luck wasn’t wearing maroon and orange.

      1. Seems that way, except for the UVA game in Cassell in 2017 with the ball stopping on flange of rim

  6. Way too many foul calls by the refs, in general. As the tourney goes on, the refs will increasingly “let them play,” but not in this opening game….apparently this group of refs wanted to affect the game, instead of vice versa….and that takes all the rhythm out of the game and you get guys fouling out.

  7. To draw a charge call in the NBA, the defender must be “set” in proper defensive position; he can’t step in the way of a player already in the air, and he can’t be moving forwards. But contrary to popular belief, the defender does not need to be standing still. A player can move laterally or backward and still draw a charge call, so long as his torso is in position before the shooter begins his upward motion.

    This is the definition of a charge call and I think the key is that “he can’t step in the way of a player already in the air”. Robinson was already elevated and is evident in the replay. Bad Call! Regardless, it should have never got to that point. Sometimes it is just not your night. Everything Alabama was throwing up was going in it seemed like while playing good defense. That one kid from Alabama made some very deep 3’s.

    All in all, very proud of this team and where the program is going. The future is very bright being a Hokie basketball fan.

  8. A huge thanks to Bibbs and Wilson. It was a disappointing end to the season, but overall the team fully met my expectations for the year. Thanks to everyone on the team and to the coaches.

  9. Easy to pass around any blame for this loss, but the bottom line is that Alabama shooting 60% was tough to beat. Just like Wisconsin last year, tough draw. Proud of the team and the future looks good.

  10. Great article, Will. You missed pointing out the two bricks by Sexton that both went in.

    1. Thanks, DH, One of the things that has changed as I’ve gotten older (I’m 53 now) is that I don’t remember the details of the game as well right afterwards, like I did when I was younger. As I’ve mentioned in articles before, I get swept up in the emotion of the game, and it’s a bit of a blur. That’s why Monday Thoughts is Monday Thoughts instead of Sunday Thoughts — I have to rewatch the game. CC is much better at writing good stuff without having to rewatch for details. That’s why he writes on Sundays.

      I should give Chris credit for the stat that Donta Hall was 5-5 with five dunks. He pointed that out to me, and it was a critical stat that really added to the recap of the game. It perfectly captured Tech’s frustration not just with guarding Petty on the outside, but giving up penetration on the inside (eight dunks, geez).

    2. That’s exactly what I was thinking! Sexton throwing up bricks but they were going in! Aaarrrggghhh.

  11. Kudos to Will for the superbly written article. I had to miss the game (recorded for later viewing), and Will did a great job of capturing the ebb and flow of the game, the nuances, the emotion, etc., all deep into the night after a tough, tough loss.

  12. My thoughts:

    Hard to win close games when teams are banking in threes (this might be the 3rd in a row this has happened)
    We do not have enough size to consistently compete at this level right now
    Hill has completely lost his game since losing his starting job and hurt us last night with turnovers and bad rotation on D (hopefully he can regroup for next season)
    I think I counted 8 total uncontested dunks by Bama including 5 by Hall
    Best wishes to JB and DW
    The future is bright just need to continue to develop depth and recruit more overall size
    Go Hokies!!

    1. There were not too many circus 3s. Most of not all were legit. Hill was not even close to the reason we lost. Other players who played far more made consistent and worse mistakes. Clarke is a bad defender as well on the perimeter. kJ Hurtt the team far more then hill. It isn’t even worth mentioning hill in regard to this particular game.

      1. Hill is non existent. A non offensive and defensive factor except for the negative. He lost his entire game and lost his confidence. He played well against weak non ACC opponents.
        I really don’t know if he can contribute next season to be a positive factor on both ends of the court.
        IMO, we might have 1 or 2 current eligible players leave next season because of lack of possible playing time!

      2. KJ’s FOULS hurt us. He performed well in 18 minutes (8 points in that short of a time is good). He got the Jeff Allen treatment unfortunately

  13. Worst call ever witnessed period tech blew it and didn’t need help w that “charge”

    1. I saw a Hokie post the other day that this game would be lost by the team that did the poorest job keeping its composure and controlling its emotions. Well we lost the game because we DID lose our emotions and compsure. Sometimes our Basketball IQ is not high enough against our competition…….once again.

      Blackshear can’t help himself from committing the ill advised reach in personal fouls followed by the “who me” look.

      Our time-out plays were extremely terrible and need to incorporate more player on player isolation plays.

      Sometime our helpdefense is too slow or gets beat because a player doubles or leaves his man when he shouldnt due to lack of trust.

      Sometimes this team needs to play man or get more skilled so they can play man…..other teams know the pathway to the NBA is the ability to play man and play ISO ball when its time to play isolation ball.

      And Finally, Buzz helped sink the battle ship for certain with his technical foul eruption over Robinson’s obvious offensive foul; Jrob left his feet for sure coach well before the restricted area. It was a tough but an obvious correct call by the ref but it didn’t have to be a 2 shot technical foul against your team.

      Im Still proud of this teams accomplishments but it sucks the team is losing these last three games the same exact way to end the season. Can’t wait to get a bigger big man and add a few more scorers to our arsenal roster.

      1. You’re 100% wrong on th JRob call, so go ahead and apply for your striped shirt, you qualify to officiate. It’s absurd that a SUPERVISOR of officials would say it was correct. If that’s true, then the overhead replay suggests it’s OK for a defender to move from the low block to the CENTER of the lane AFTER the offensive player is already in the air on a path that wouldn’t contact the defender should he have remained where he was when Robinson left the floor. If Calling a charge there is correct then the rules must change. Was Robinson supposed to miraculously change directions in mid air? Fact is he jumped in a direction to avoid where the Bama defender was in the first place

    2. Not the worst call ever. That sounds like someone who simply did lmtboike the outcome vs acknowledging it was correct.

      1. It was a bad call that cost us a CHANCE to win BUT we’d beaten ourselves earlier with poor ball handling, poor loose ball recovery fundamentals (grab loose ball to recover instead of attempting to dribble it). If you haven’t seen the overhead camera replay view, I’d see how you might not think so. Bad calls happen, that’s why you have to give yourself a margin to protect against them, and we didn’t with too many unforced errors combined with some lucky shooting by Bama

Comments are closed.