Virginia Tech Digs Itself A Deeper Hole With Tuesday’s Loss To NC State

Keve Aluma and the Hokies are 0-3 in the ACC. (Ivan Morozov)

Coming off a 13-day COVID pause and sitting at 0-2 in the ACC, Virginia Tech prepared for NC State looking to get back on track in league play. Yet, despite leading at home with five minutes to play, the Hokies lost their third straight conference game at the hands of the Wolfpack, 68-63.

“Our quickness to the ball was lacking and it was evident,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said afterwards. “They were giving me everything they had in their tank. And our work on the glass, where we’ve been pretty darn good throughout, was just… They [NC State] were quicker around the hole than we were.”

NC State, led by Kevin Keatts, was better. Though the program entered Tuesday night’s contest outside of KenPom’s top 100 (108) after losing its last five games, it found a way to win in Blacksburg.

The Wolfpack (8-7, 1-3 ACC) outrebounded the Hokies (8-6, 0-3 ACC) by ten (36-26). They missed 33 of their 59 shots (26-59, 44.1%), yet grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which means they got 42% of their shots back. On top of that, Virginia Tech turned the ball over ten times, seven instances coming in the second half.

“They were relentless,” Hokies forward Keve Aluma said of the Wolfpack’s effort on the boards.

Aluma led the team in scoring with 18 points (7-14 FG) and six rebounds, and Storm Murphy added 14 points (5-8 FG) and five assists. However, there wasn’t much punch outside of that duo.

Hunter Cattoor had nine points but was just three-of-seven. Justyn Mutts had six points but was also three-of-seven, and though he grabbed seven boards, he had six turnovers. No one else on the team had more than two (Aluma).

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Hokies after Tuesday’s loss. (Ivan Morozov)

And then there’s Nahiem Alleyne. He’s in a shooting slump, and has been for some time. He was 2-11 on Tuesday night and four of his nine points came from the free throw line. Worse, he’s 3-22 in Tech’s three ACC games. In the last four games altogether, he’s 6-35.

“If it was an easy answer,” Young said of Alleyne’s shooting woes, “I’d have already done it. We all know what a fine basketball player he is. … We’re going to hang in there with that kid. He’s got to play well for us, he knows that, and I know that he’ll pop out of it here quickly.”

At some point, a change might be needed. But when Murphy struggled shooting the ball earlier in the year, Young let him shoot his way out of it. Can Alleyne do that? Tech can’t afford him to hoist up nine misses a night, particularly ones like his three-point attempt with 1:58 to play that missed everything, including the rim.

Darius Maddox had the best plus/minus on the team vs. NC State (nine), but played just 11 minutes. Sean Pedulla saw 12 minutes, while David N’Guessan played 11. There isn’t much depth, and Young doesn’t seem comfortable trusting what’s there for long stretches of the game.

Still, Virginia Tech led NC State at halftime, 33-29. The Hokies hadn’t shot well but closed the half on a 14-0 run over the final five minutes. Then like a light switch, the Wolfpack went on a 13-0 run over a three-minute stretch (16:53-13:57) in the second half to retake the lead.

A 9-0 run by Tech a few minutes later snatched back the lead, but NC State outscored VT 10-4 over the final four minutes to close out the game.

“Bottom line is NC State outplayed us,” Murphy said post-game. “I don’t think it was fatigue or running out of gas. I think we actually had a couple of medias back-to-back. … They just outplayed us the last stretch.”

So, about this trend that Virginia Tech seems to be on. The program is 0-3 in the ACC, a league that isn’t very good this year outside of Duke, even if those affiliated with the conference won’t admit it. And the Hokies have now lost two league games at home – one by 19 to Wake Forest – and are approaching a .500 overall record with lightning speed. Sure, you could give this game a COVID mulligan, but Tech is still 0-3 in the ACC.

Virginia Tech and Storm Murphy need to turn the ship around. (Ivan Morozov)

In many senses, this was a must-win game for Virginia Tech. It needed to get back on track in the conference, and until it gets its first league win, every game will continue to be a “must-win” contest.

In the big picture, unless the program does a complete 180 over the next two months, it has no shot to make the NCAA Tournament. If there isn’t a turnaround now, even the NIT might seem like a stretch.

That’s very strange based on some analytics, because the Hokies are a top-30 KenPom team and are in the top 40 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. This team should be good, but through 14 games, hasn’t been.

In the preseason, many saw a team with three fifth-year seniors and two juniors that made the NCAA Tournament the season prior and thought, “this team should be pretty good.” I was one of them, I’ll admit. Now? The trajectory of this team points towards the ACC’s basement, and the Hokies have to win a conference game to even start to have realistic NIT hopes.

That leads to one final question: Is this Virginia Tech team mediocre, or worse, bad? The next contest at Virginia on Jan. 12 will go a long way in answering the prompt.

“I think the biggest thing for our team, we need to play with a little more pop, a little more energy,” Murphy said. “That sense of urgency isn’t just something to think about or believe, but that has to be seen. How we’re rotating, how we’re playing physically, how we’re getting on the floor for loose balls. Just the energy and physicality, the emotion. We’ve got to get back to that.”

Box Score: Link

25 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Tyrece is gone. Play with the hand you’re dealt. Long season. Don’t count us out yet.

  2. It’s understandable when MYoung wants to support Alleyne, it shows nurturing but this can only continue but so far, how many more games will the team has to suffer. If Alleyne can not pull himself out of the slump after 3-4 games !!! this is Division 1 basketball, VT is 0-3 in the ACC, cut our losses and put in another player that can contribute more to the team’s goal. Put in Maddox, give Maddox a chance to contribute and to develop, Alleyne just have to win back his starting slot…

  3. When we lost Radford to TAM, I thought we were losing our best player.

    Can you win in the ACC with a bunch of Wofford guys? They went to Wofford for a reason.

  4. Alleyme is a totally different guy without Radford. Very unfortunate Tyrece left us in a pickle with no contingency plan.

  5. I still believe in this team – they have to play tougher for sure though. Literally every game left on the schedule is winnable. If this team has to slump I would rather it be now than in February and March. Regardless, they have to start playing downhill and taking it to the opponents – way too passive right now.

    1. That’s what everyone said in December: rather to struggle now than later! At what point do you just say: this is who this team is…determined in stretches, sometimes a hot shooting streak, without a go-to star in crunch time, too often soft, limited ability to penetrate/finish at the rim, very limited bench contribution, too many lapses in concentration/effort/playing as a team. This VT squad is showing out to just not be very good, despite the seemingly justified high hopes/expectations coming into the season. Almost too late to salvage much at this point…..and which raises MAJOR concerns for next season! Bigger picture: If a Sr/Jr laden group well-schooled in CMY’s system can’t perform, where does that leave this program in the 22-23 season? Yikes

      1. “ If a Sr/Jr laden group well-schooled in CMY’s system can’t perform, where does that leave this program in the 22-23 season?” Exactly, that is a good question!

  6. I love CMY but Alleyne shouldn’t be allowed to CONTINUE to go game after game shooting like he’s never played basketball in his life. I understand why CMY would want to continue to support him, and to want to give Alleyne all the opportunities he needs to get back on track, but we need to put SOMEONE in the game that at least has A CHANCE to score points. We are not going to win ANY ACC games playing 4 of our players against 5 of “theirs”. If we lose every game we play because CMY is giving one player 5, 10, 15 games to get things fixed,,his priorities are in the wrong place. Alleyne, like every other kid on the team, needs to have SOME level of performance below which you don’t play..I wonder if the kids are not playing with a good level of energy because they’re getting tired of losing because we play someone who isn’t getting it done. I played sports, including basketball, both in school and in leagues after I was out of college and every team I ever played on where there was a coach involved would have been a little to a lot resentful of a player on the team being allowed to pull down the whole team game after game. It is not motivational, and our teams needs some REAL change to motivate them. It’s on our coach to do something he’s not doing because we are under-achieving and it’s not getting any better.

        1. My bad…yes Alleyne. I don’t think Young has the time to wait for him to start making baskets.

  7. We have 2 chances to beat Virginia, slim and none. They are playing well of late and we aren’t. We are not going to out talent anybody. We have to make that deficit up with hustle, grit, determination, and….coaching. Which explains the 0-3 start which could easily be 0-5.

  8. We are being out muscled on the boards. When we regained the lead we were unable to add to it, we turned the ball over or took poor shots. We are lacking that go to guy who can take the ball to the hoop when we need a basket, like Justin Robinson, Alexander-Walker or Malcom Delaney. NC State had that kind of guy. The team just doesn’t look tough at this time, no “attitude” or chip on our shoulder.

    1. I agree except I would not use the phrase “out muscled” but rather “out hustled” instead. We look to have done a pretty fair job in the weight room this off season compared to the other teams’ players especially those underclass men that have been exploding against us. We don’t match the opponents energy and they are manhandling us. We look pretty good coming off the bus but on the court we look unathletic. For a mature team things just don’t add up. Time to throw a chair or two, this team needs some fire. Nothing to lose at this point

    2. I would pick up someone from the football team. Teams have done it before (including Tech) with much success.

  9. My feelings exactly, team looks unhappy and uninspired. I believe the fan base is tiring of unfilled expectations from pre-season “over-hypes” in both major sports.
    I appreciate the concise spot on write-ups David.

  10. “And then there’s Nahiem Alleyne. He’s in a shooting slump, and has been for some time. He was 2-11 on Tuesday night and four of his nine points game (SIC) from the free throw line. Worse, he’s 3-22 in Tech’s three ACC games. In the last four games altogether, he’s 6-35.”

    Naheim needs to concentrate on rebounding, defense, and getting to the free-throw line. If I ever went 6-35, I would put myself in a timeout.

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