Slow Start, Bad First Half Shooting Dooms Virginia Tech In Dayton Loss

Virginia Tech has lost four of its last six games. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

For the fourth time in the last six games, Virginia Tech got behind by double digits in the first half. And for the fourth instance during that stretch, the Hokies’ second half effort wasn’t enough, despite a late surge.

Against Memphis, Tech got down ten before halftime. Versus Xavier and Wake Forest, that margin was 11. On Sunday in front of over 13,000 fans at Dayton, the Hokies trailed the Flyers by 12 at one point.

Slow starts, in which the team doesn’t shoot well, has been a theme for Mike Young’s group. A team that starts three fifth-year seniors and two juniors and was picked fifth in the ACC is now 7-4 (0-1 ACC) after the 62-57 loss at Dayton.

“That was a disappointing beginning to come here and not play very well,” Young said afterwards. “Come in here [locker room at halftime] down seven, thought we were in great shape. Got Keve [Aluma] going a little bit to end the half, got some things going for us. And then bad response to start the half.

“Just not the kind of response you need in an environment like that and giving yourself a real shot to win.”

After Tech scored the game’s opening basket at the 15:31-mark, the Flyers dropped ten unanswered points. VT never led again. Most importantly, it took too long for Tech to find its groove, a frequent trend this season and one that carried over to the second half.

Dayton led by 12 with 2:45 left in the first half, but Tech slowly crawled back thanks to a 7-2 run. It was a seven-point game – 29-22 – at the break. But even after finishing the half strong, another lackadaisical start to the second period killed the Hokies.

It wasn’t until the Flyers led by 18 – they opened the second half with an 18-7 run over the first six-plus minutes – that the road team started to connect, and even though it pulled within five in three instances over the final six minutes, it wasn’t enough.

Dayton pressed early and often, which wreaked havoc. VT spent at least ten seconds on the majority of its possessions in the game on bringing the ball up the floor.

The pressure was especially evident over the 45 seconds (17:15-16:30) early in the second half when Virginia Tech turned it over three straight times before crossing the timeline. While those three gifts led to just four points, that stretch was an epitome of Tech’s performance.

The Hokies had trouble breaking Dayton’s press, which was just the first of many problems on Sunday. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

“I don’t understand it,” Young said. “Bad start to both halves, and we have to get better there. Probably should’ve called timeout when it went to 11, I didn’t, and it got to 14, 15. We didn’t handle that part very well, didn’t get to spots.

“Expecting to win on the road, can’t have those kinds of mistakes. Can’t turn the ball over against the press, can’t have 11 assists and 13 turnovers.”

The Hokies fought their way back and brought the game within single digits thanks to their defense. Over a 7:30 stretch, they outscored Dayton 18-5 and allowed just one basket on nine attempts. That created an exciting five-point contest with 5:45 to play, despite Tech’s early struggles.

The Flyers sealed the deal, however. An 8-0 run with two minutes to go bumped the margin back to ten, and they cruised to the five-point win from there.

Entering the season, Young was worried about the defense, and he noted that if the offense was his biggest problem, he’d sleep easy. Looking at the last six games and omitting Cornell, Virginia Tech has played five top-100 KenPom team and struggled to score in each matchup.

Memphis: 19-56 (33.9%)
Xavier: 22-54 (40.7%)
Maryland: 23-60 (38.3%)
Wake Forest: 23-56 (41.1%)
Dayton: 21-55 (38.2%)

Those numbers don’t even note the bad three-point shooting against Wake Forest (8-27, 29.6%) and Dayton (6-22, 27.3%).

“I thought we had some great ones [shots vs. Dayton],” Young said. “They’ve got some length and they fly around, but we had shots for the guys we want taking shots, just didn’t get them in the bottom of the hole. You need to make those shots on the road.

“Those shots, when they present themselves, you need to rise in the air and make the basket.”

Nahiem Alleyne, who led Tech in scoring last season, was poor offensively – 1-10 FG, 0-4 3FG. Despite finishing tied for a team-high 14 points (7-15 FG), Keve Aluma was two-of-seven in the first half. Justyn Mutts missed all four of his three-point attempts, was two-for-five from the free throw line and just three-of-nine from the field, even though he finished with eight points.

Even outside of the win/loss category, the Hokies have struggled in all aspects on the offensive end against teams that are larger and lengthier. Aluma has missed easy shots around the bucket, wide open threes just haven’t dropped, and the lack of ball movement has led to droughts. Tech has struggled to slash to the rim, while the inside-out game seemed to disappear at times through the first 11 contests.

Virginia Tech has really struggled offensively as of late. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

“It really is [surprising],” Young said. “We’ve got to get this thing figured out. … That’s quite frustrating, quite perplexing. Again, through 11 games. We’ll get it squared away.”

The slate doesn’t get any easier.

Young & Co. travel to Charlotte on Friday to face another old A-10 friend, St. Bonaventure. After that, they play Duke and North Carolina on the road in the ACC. Then they’re back home on New Year’s vs. Pitt before league play really takes off.

This is Virginia Tech’s most challenging non-conference schedule since joining the ACC in 2004. Young wanted to challenge his group, and he’s done that. Hindsight is 20/20, but his team simply hasn’t performed up to his, and many others’, expectations.

It was a highly anticipated game before, but the Bonnies are now a team the Hokies must beat. Falling to 7-5 ahead of the conference’s richest of blue bloods could put the Hokies at .500 to end 2021 and down 0-3 in league play.

Tech’s been on the go since Nov. 9. With four days off, there’s not a better time for the team to work out kinks, tweak strategies and find its identity. If that doesn’t happen, the program’s NCAA Tournament hopes could be in jeopardy.

“I think [we need to work on] the whole ball of wax,” Young said. “Too much standing, not enough ball reversals. Too much on the floor and those are all concerns when you see a team like Dayton that gets into you and makes it hard.

“We’ve got plenty to work on, and we need it [practice]. We’re a little dull, and just our schedule has dictated that. I look forward to getting back and really having a couple of good days of practice, at least Tuesday-Wednesday, without thinking about our next game.”

Box Score: Link

28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. The “Memphis Blueprint” Be Physical, Play Pressure “D” and you beat the Hokies..
    Surely all the teams we will play will use the Memphis Model, and until CMY and his staff addresses that we will lose many more games. Shame with a Sr/Jr team..

  2. Hate to say anything negative about Coach Young but this appears to be a lack of coaching particularly on offense. One example he admitted he should have called the timeout when we got down 11…but why wait that long though? You can’t wait til you’re down 10+ on the road in harsh environment then try to rope your guys back in, it’s too late at that point. Also the offense looks atrocious, looking like the Lakers out there lol our guys don’t really know what to do, the scheme looks non-existent, too much iso ball, and too much of Mutts and Aluma outside of the arc — needs to stop and starts with Coach Young. We don’t look like a tournament team right now.

  3. Simply a pathetic effort TOP to bottom. Excuses don’t cut it. Maybe it is time for some tough work and replacement starters.

    Move the ball!

  4. Our point guard is having great difficulty getting the ball across mid court if pressured especially against taller guards. Yesterday he just was not fluid and he seemed to be skipping or hopping or however his movement was identified that made changing directions quickly impossible. The freshman Point kept his feet and made quick moves forcing the defender to move strongly most of the time to his left then changing hands went around the man. This from someone that knows exactly 0 about playing basketball.

    1. Tyrece is only averaging 9.6 points per game, but he is averaging 5.6 rebounds/game! Rebounds is where VT is really missing him because the 6’9” 235 lb. Aluma has NO interest in “hangin & bangin” down low!

  5. I am not giving up on this team, like some others, but there is work to be done. We can get on a roll, but we need some confidence. One of the most noticeable things we are missing is muscle on defense, on the boards, and on taking it to the rim like Justin Robinson and Radford did. Not good at this point, but not time to jump ship.

    1. Agree it’s too early to give up on the team. They have been close at the end against some very good teams. If they can start playing better out of the gate I think things will turn around. Defensively they have been good enough (not that it can’t get better). But they can’t come out and play the first 12 minutes on offense like they did against Dayton with terrible shot selection and lackadaisical passing. That ~12 minute stretch was a clinic in bad offense. That’s correctable, but CMY needs to teach them to value every possession – protect the ball and have the patience to work for great shots. They don’t have a Radford or a Justin Robinson but they have enough players who can make plays they need to win games if they play for each other.

  6. How are all the Bede bashers feeling now? This team has no floor leader. I’m hoping someone will step up, but hope is not a strategy.

    1. We had a floor leader stepping it up when the lead was trimmed to 5 points late in the game, and then he was taken out of the game. He played 11 minutes total.

    2. The problem with Bede and where he hurt the team last year was on offense! He struggled to make layup’s and mid range jumpers. 1, 5 & 13 should all be playing more meaningful minutes, especially Maddox over Alleyne!

  7. The book has been written on how to defeat VT this year: Apply a full-court press which will eat up shot clock time and get the team so rattled it can’t shoot straight.

  8. This team sucks! What a disappointment. Looks like CMY was too good to be true….

    They will get pounded in the ACC.

  9. Disappointing performance. No players are showing their experience. So inconsistent they all seem like freshman out there.

  10. Well…unfortunately I think it’s time to reset expectations. I thought this team was a tournament lock, but they aren’t looking like a tournament team.

    I just don’t understand it, we brought back almost the entire roster. Maybe losing Radford was a bigger deal than I thought. There were some times last year where he would get a bucket when we really needed it, plus his rebounding.

    Hopefully they get it turned around in ACC play, but I’m not optimistic.

    1. Outside of Mutts, I don’t see any toughness on this team. No cohesiveness on offense, grab the ball and take a wild shot (off the back foot, etc.) Will be lucky if even make the tournament at this point.

    2. Tyrece was the glue that held everything together last year. Unless there are some big changes in Bburg soon, this year will continue going down the drain just like the football team. Not a great time to be a HOKIE.

      1. Fortunately my self worth and pride in being a Hokie is not dependent on 20 something athletes. Buck up there, Mr. Driver.

  11. I thought we were supposed to be good this year? Every team with a pulse we have played has beat us. The one half way decent team that lost to us was so embarrassed their coach quit.

  12. David , great analysis. Myriad of issues with biggest one IMO is we can’t get the ball up the court with any urgency. Often today it was 15-16 seconds before first pass..that compounded by the fact that except for Hunter we have no shooting consistency and Young rarely plays Maddox. Man we miss Boots and the energy of Joe B

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