Despite their worst offensive game of the season, No. 7/9 Virginia Tech left Atlanta 52-49 winners over Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. The Hokies improved to 14-1 overall, matching their best start in school history dating way back in 1982-83. They are 3-0 in ACC play. The Yellow Jackets dropped to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
Georgia Tech entered Wednesday night’s game as one of the nation’s best defensive teams, and one of the worst offensive teams. That’s exactly how the game played out. The Yellow Jackets stymied Virginia Tech’s offense like no other team has been able to do this year, but committed 18 turnovers, including two on their final two possessions.
Trailing 51-49 with an opportunity to take the final shot, Georgia Tech threw the ball out-of-bounds against a tough VT defense with just over three seconds remaining. They fouled Justin Robinson on the inbounds, who made one of two free throw attempts to make the score 52-49 with 1.8 seconds remaining. The Yellow Jackets threw a deep ball past the halfcourt line in an effort to get off a final shot, but senior forward Abdoulaye Gueye stepped over the inbounds line on the pass, which gave the ball back to Virginia Tech. The Hokies inbounded and ran out the final 1.8 seconds.
Besides those two plays, down the stretch Georgia Tech also missed an easy layup, missed the front end of a one-and-one, and stepped out of bounds while dribbling in front of their own bench. Head coach Josh Pastner also used his final timeout with 1:28 left in the game.
Virginia Tech led nearly the entire game, and in fact led by 10 points on two occasions early in the second half. PJ Horne got a layup in the paint to put the Hokies up 39-29 with 16:20 remaining, and with the way Georgia Tech’s offense was performing up to that point, it looked like Virginia Tech had a chance to blow the game open.
That didn’t happen, as the Yellow Jackets steadily fought their way back into the game despite their own offensive ineptitude. They even managed to take the lead 49-47 with 3:25 remaining on a basket in the paint from Brandon Austin with the shot clock winding down. However, that lead was short-lived, as Justin Robinson answered by banking in a three-pointer on the other end to give the Hokies a 50-49 lead with 3:09 left. That’s when the Yellow Jackets began their comedy of errors down the stretch, and Virginia Tech was able to escape with the win.
This was a strange game statistically. Virginia Tech forced 18 turnovers while committing just nine of their own. They beat the Yellow Jackets on the boards, outrebounding them 35-32, and whipping them on the offensive glass 13-3. Usually those numbers would mean a double-digit Hokie win, but that didn’t happen on Wednesday thanks to excellent Georgia Tech defense and a bad shooting night from the Hokies.
Virginia Tech was just 17-of-57 (29.8%) from the field and 5-of-27 (18.5%) from three-point range. Those two percentages, plus the total number of points of 52, all marked season lows for the Hokies. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was just 1-of-13 from the field and scored only four points, though he did dish out six assists. Despite all of that, the Hokies were able to win the game thanks to strong defense, a banked-in three-pointer from Justin Robinson, and sloppy play from the Yellow Jackets down the stretch.
Ahmed Hill led the Hokies with 15 points, while Kerry Blackshear had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Justin Robinson added 10 points.
The Hokies get nearly an entire week off before returning to action next Tuesday. They’ll travel to Charlottesville for a big matchup with No. 1/4 UVA. Tipoff is scheduled for 8pm, and the game will be televised by Raycom Sports. Check your local listings.