Boston College Bests Virginia Tech Late, A Familiar Theme For The Hokies

Virginia tech is 2-5 in the ACC after Saturday’s loss at Boston College. (Jon Fleming)

Entering Saturday, Virginia Tech had just two wins through six ACC games, and both victories came in the last week.

With the most dangerous week of the 2021-22 gauntlet on the horizon – games at North Carolina, vs. Miami and at Florida State in seven days – the Hokies needed a good result in Chestnut Hill at Boston College.

They didn’t get one.

Virginia Tech (10-8, 2-5 ACC) led by eleven points in the first half, but the Eagles (8-9, 3-4) roared back and trailed by two at halftime. The Hokies faced severe foul trouble, a first this season, as Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts, David N’Guessan and John Ojiako all had two personals.

Aluma and Mutts sat for the last six minutes in the half, yet Tech still retained the lead. That was good news heading into the final 20 minutes. But the Hokies looked outmatched down the stretch, flashbacks to multiple games this season.

Most evident was the late game slide. Similar to so many previous losses, Virginia Tech lacked the “clutch gene.” Against UVa, it was shooting 0-of-3 and turning it over three times in the final three minutes. In the loss to NC State in Blacksburg, it was turning the ball over three times, missing two free throws and allowing eight offensive rebounds in the last five minutes.

Saturday at Boston College? 1-of-7 from the floor in the final four minutes, including 0-of-4 from deep, the last four shots the Hokies attempted. Worse: Virginia Tech allowed Boston College to grab five offensive boards in the final two minutes.

Similar to the NC State game (above), Virginia Tech allowed too many offensive rebounds down the stretch. (Ivan Morozov)

Combine that with a career afternoon from BC’s James Karnik (26 points) and the Hokies lost their fifth ACC game.

“We played him [Karnik] two years ago when he was at Lehigh and I was nervous about it,” Young said. “He’s a good player now, don’t get me wrong. He’s big and he’s a physical kid, but our inability to rebound the ball was… I’m mystified.”

On Nov. 16, 2019, Karnik played for Lehigh and had four points (2-6 FG), two rebounds, an assist and two turnovers in a 79-53 loss to Virginia Tech. On Saturday for Boston College, he had a career-high 26 points (10-12 FG, 5-6 FT) while tallying nine rebounds, two assists, two turnovers.

He was the story of the game, to which Young alluded. But he had help from his teammates, especially in the second half.

The Eagles shot 48% from the floor in that span and grabbed 11 offensive boards, finishing the game with 16 in total. That’s the most Virginia Tech has allowed this season, topping 15 by Memphis and 14 by NC State.

Karnik had four, and the Hokies struggled to box him out. Worse, Quinten Post, a seven-footer who played just nine minutes, grabbed three.

That kind of success on the boards and down the stretch appears to be this Tech team’s kryptonite. Young mentioned after Wednesday’s win over NC State (which featured five turnovers in the last five minutes) that the Hokies “have to handle those [late-game] situations better.”

That wasn’t how the dice rolled on Saturday. Matter of fact, the team has been poor in those situations in almost every league contest.

Below is a breakdown of Virginia Tech’s final five minutes in ACC games. Over that stretch, here are the Hokies’ averages: 34% FG, 22% 3FG, 2.4 turnovers. In addition, opponents are averaging 2.9 offensive rebounds.

The only league contest where one could potentially make a case that VT played well for the full 40 minutes is the win over Notre Dame. In every other game, Tech faltered at some point down the stretch in some category.

It’s even more interesting to look at and analyze the statistics of the players in the last five minutes. Storm Murphy, who had six points on Saturday, and Mutts lead the Hokies in points down the stretch with 15 each. Aluma’s efficiency is intriguing, as is Nahiem Alleyne’s, but Hunter Cattoor’s involvement, or lack thereof, might be the most surprising.

Point being, Virginia Tech has been very poor in late-game situations as a team, and the only individuals who stand out are Mutts and Murphy.

The Hokies were better in some areas at Boston College than they have been at other times this season. Zero turnovers, specifically. But poor shooting, not getting to the free throw line and allowing the Eagles five offensive boards set them back. BC isn’t even in the top half of the conference in offensive rebound rate: KenPom has Earl Grant’s group at No. 9. That’s bad news for a Virginia Tech team that faces UNC (No. 4) and Florida State (No. 5) over the next week.

“That hasn’t been something that I thought, ‘man, I have to shore that up,’” Young said of Tech’s rebounding issues.

The head man mentioned the need for guards to crash the boards better, like Cattoor, who didn’t have a rebound at BC. He also referred to Mutts, who averages seven and had just three against the Eagles.

Yet, this is the same team that gave up an absurd amount of rebounds to NC State. Off a COVID pause, mind you, but that seems like an area for concern.

All in all, there’s a slew of problems for this Tech team. It starts with the win-loss record and deals with consistency. The metrics like Young & Co. – and as long as the Hokies stay in games, will continue to like them – but when this team can’t make shots, it struggles. That sounds like a basic phrase, but a team like Virginia can win through its defense. Tech hasn’t played well enough on a consistent basis on that end to have that ability – VT is dead last in the league in defensive efficiency.

This college basketball season, more so than the past, has shown that teams with the best players tend to win more often. Yes, there’s KenPom’s luck factor – VT is 347 out of 358 teams – but in the end, it comes down to who can make plays, whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end.

The Hokies haven’t been consistent enough on either end in any of their conference games outside of Notre Dame, and when the shots aren’t falling, that comes back to bite them. The rebounding woes are a problem, but outside of that, it comes down to the offensive weapons a team has on the floor.

Young said the program has to move on to the next game, and he’s right. That’s all Tech can do right now – continue to improve and prepare for the next game. The luck will inevitability change, the shots will fall eventually, and the Hokies will continue to search for consistency.

But until that is found, it’s going to be a long roller coaster of a season.

Box Score: Link

26 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Bottom line is we have guards who are not athletic and cannot create any shot on their own plus they can’t shoot either. Murphy/ Alleyne are combined 11/41 the last two games. No chance with these results from players that Young said could shoot

    1. Yep, many experts here said no loss of Radford because that would let us have another shooter on the floor. How’s that working out?

    2. We’ve all seen that Cattoor can shoot, it’s not just Mike Young telling us that. Murphy has had some success in his career, but is certainly struggling against ACC competition. He has had flashes, but they seem like the exception, nor the norm.

  2. I’d like to see Mike Young change it up a little. For example Catoor can play the poi t of he has to (he did last year). So why not give him some minutes at the point, and bring in Maddox? Both Catoor and Maddox can drive and hit three-point shots; therefore, defenses have to defend both, all the time. Currently when Murphy and Alleyne are on the floor at the same time, defenses slough off them to help elsewhere. Also, if VT is gonna lose every game, play the young guys more. A loss is a loss, but at least you get players ready for next year.

  3. I expected this to be a top 3 ACC team (especially in this weak league). Instead, we’re a bottom 3 team. I hate the word “choking”, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

  4. Aluma is not a 5. Let’s stop playing him like he is against ACC bigs. Every time we lose, particularly late in games, two things happen: 1 – We lose composure and make mistakes. 2 – The opponents’ bigs always wear us down. Aluma is not a 5. I think we have to keep Ojiako in there with their 5s to free up Aluma. It’s obvious Aluma has real trouble with the bigs…he’s only 6-8 or 6-9 while the ACC bigs he’s facing are bigger and it makes him tired and uncomfortable. Have to free him up. Have to have confidence in Big John. Ojiako will get rebounds, make things difficult, get garbage buckets, and be a major pain to their bigs. All the way back to Wake, we just got worn down underneath, and Aluma and Mutts, plain and simply, are not big enough and their skill can’t overcome that.

  5. It seem like our bigs find themselves playing farther from the basket as the game winds down. They wind up taking 3 point shots leaving no one under to rebound. Also Alleyne should not be in the game late as long as he’s as inconsistent as he is. Between his poor passing and his poor shooting he’s been nothing but a liability. This team has a chance when they play to their individual strengths—and that’s not Aluma and Mutts shooting 3’s. We need to give Cattoor, Padulla and Murphy more opportunities down the stretch. The results can’t be worse!

    1. Good points. When we have had successful teams, we have had players like J Robinson, Delaney and Radford who would drive hard to the basket, score and create fouls. That produced more FT’s and foul trouble for the opponents. We do very little of that now. We need more aggressive plays going to the basket and more FT opportunities. This is what our opponents are doing to us!

  6. How can they be expected to rebound when our offensive sets are run outside of the three point line.

    The offense that worked in the SoCon won’t work in the ACC unless you have elite players, which we don’t.

  7. Big, physical, hard-working centers have been killing us; even if they appeared to be average, journeyman-type players going in. Caffaro for UVA, and yesterday Karnik for BC. Not looking forward to facing Bacot against UNCheat.

    1. Could not agree more. If we aren’t brave enough to play Ojiako to bang with these guys we will continue to lose. Aluma isn’t a 5.

  8. I hope we can stop with “the luck factor” B.S. This isn’t about luck..This is about EXECUTION when it counts the most..Period and end of story.

  9. So we have the wrong people shooting at the wrong times. Alleyne, who we know is struggling, keeps getting the ball. And even if mutts does well, he is also giving up offensive rebounds. Murphy dribbles to corners and away from cattoor. Against any real post presence, Aluma becomes a hook shooter. We over pass because we are dead set on running out sets… trying to handoff to guards coming from corners.

  10. I sure hope the starting line up changes and some adjustments are at least attempted in our next few games. The season is done it’s time to understand what went wrong and worked toward improving the players that might be here next year. Defense needs vast improvement. Dead last in defensive efficiency from a team with 3 seniors and 2 juniors is unacceptable. We miss coach Frazer.

    1. The season is not done, but it’s an uphill climb. We’ve still have 12 more conference games. If we beat UNC and Miami, albeit unlikely, everyone will be singing a different tune. Let it play out, and don’t get too high after a win, or too low after a loss.

  11. Losing those good assistant coaches the past 2 years is showing up with poor defense and rebounding.

  12. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. I can hear Dandy Don singing like it was yesterday.

  13. Reminds me of the recently concluded football season. High hopes and exactly the opposite. Can’t finish a game and outclassed.

    Some starters need to sit.

    Is conditioning and the lack thereof a major factor? It appears to be.

  14. Summary:

    Final Score: BC 68, VT 63
    Biggest VT Lead: 11 (19-8)
    Biggest BC Lead: 5 (51-46)
    Last Lead Change: BC 62, VT 61
    It Was Over: BC 64, VT 61

    Another frustrating game. Against NC State this week, a 17 point first half lead melted away, but the Hokies held on. This time, the 11 point first half lead crumbled, and eventually the game with it.

    And to top it off, as so often seems to happen, The Eagles’ James Karnik had a career-high 26 points. We are career night magnets, it appears.

    On to another game in this brutal stretch, at Chapel Hill, where the Hokies have not won since February 13, 2007, when Greenberg (who does not get enough credit) was here.

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