Rebounding The Difference In Virginia Tech’s Loss At North Carolina

Virginia Tech’s good shooting and solid defense wasn’t enough in Chapel Hill. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

In the first trip to the Dean E. Smith Center under Mike Young, Virginia Tech out-shot North Carolina. But after trailing by double digits early, the Hokies battled back but fell short, 78-68.

The Hokies (10-9, 2-6 ACC) held the Tar Heels (13-6, 5-3) to 36.5% shooting (23-63) from the floor. They themselves were 46.6% (27-58). But rebounding struggles, which were obvious vs. NC State and at Boston College, undermined them on Monday.

ACC Player of the Year candidate Armando Bacot was superb, pulling down 20 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass. 20 is the most rebounds by an opposing player against the Hokies in ACC play since Tech joined the league in 2004. The previous high was 19, set by Duke’s Shelden Williams in Durham on Dec. 4, 2005.

Editors Note: On Tuesday morning, North Carolina made a statistical correction that gave Bacot a defensive rebound that was originally given to RJ Davis. He previously had 19, but that number was changed to 20.

“Any time you play North Carolina, your team knows their team,” Young said afterwards, “and the first two things I could’ve asked any of them prior to beginning our preparations, and they would immediately say, ‘transition defense,’ which I thought we were terrific, and … you’ve got to rebound the ball.

“My team gave me everything they had. We had excellent rebounding from our backcourt. [Nahiem] Alleyne had five. Hunter Cattoor had seven. … We’ve got to do a better job. Bacot is a house. Everybody in this league has a hard time keeping him off the glass.”

Indeed, Bacot put on a show. To go along with his rebounds, he had 14 points. Though after he started a perfect six-of-six from the floor, he shot 1-of-13 for the rest of the contest, finishing 7-of-19.

Justyn Mutts (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Keve Aluma (19 points, six rebounds) defended him for most of the game and managed to stay out of foul trouble. But even when he wasn’t scoring, he was snatching the ball off the glass. Ten rebounds in the first half, nine in the second. Young described him as “a grizzly bear.”

“He’s really active, really aggressive, really athletic,” Justyn Mutts said of Bacot after the loss. “He’s a hard guy to stop, and he’s going to keep coming at you every single play. … Once the shot goes up, that’s when the real battle starts.”

With Bacot essentially a non-factor in terms of scoring in the second half, others had to step up for the Tar Heels. Found them they did, and a handful of them.

At halftime, Virginia Tech trailed North Carolina by four, 37-33. Caleb Love had nine points, RJ Davis had six, four for Brady Manek and two for Leaky Black. That complemented Bacot’s 12.

In the second half: Love dropped 13, Manek and Davis each added 11, and Black scored eight. Love finished with 22 points, Manek and Davis had 15 each, and Black posted 10.

Hubert Davis & Co. were searching for answers and found them, and combined with their presence on the boards – 43 total rebounds to Tech’s 32 – the Hokies couldn’t retake the lead. A few clutch threes from Manek, who finished 4-of-8 from behind the arc, sealed the contest.

UNC tied a season-high by a VT opponent in offensive rebounds with 16 (set by Boston College on Saturday). Only Memphis (45 rebounds) had more total boards against the Hokies this season, too.

Against any other team in the league, Tech’s 32 rebounds would’ve cut it. That’s the team’s second-most this season, behind 37 at NC State. But a -11 margin on the glass is killer.

North Carolina was just better in the late stages of Monday’s game. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

The Hokies’ play down the stretch as of late has been as well. And while it was okay shooting-wise in the last five minutes – 5-of-9 from the field, 1-of-4 from three – North Carolina was 4-of-5 and 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Take out the final few minutes and UNC was 19-of-58 (32.8%) from the field for the game. 

“Not good enough,” Young said of his team’s performance in the final few minutes.

The Hokies just didn’t have that kind of stretch in them in Chapel Hill. This came after the first half, which was runs galore.

UNC outlasted VT to hold on to its perfect 10-0 record at home this season. The Hokies played good defense for the majority of the game, scored the ball well, but couldn’t get much-needed stops in crunch time. In many ways, that’s the story of conference play for Tech.

The team’s schedule doesn’t get any easier this week. Miami and Florida State, the two teams sitting atop the Atlantic Coast Conference, are on the docket over the next five days.

“Keep digging.” That’s what Young’s message was to his team after the game.

Tech was there for 40 minutes, even when it didn’t seem like it, but didn’t have enough in the end to pull out the victory. The Hokies have a day to recharge and regroup before hitting the hardwood again vs. the Hurricanes on Wednesday.

“This is hard. Hard for my team,” Young said. “I thought we played well enough in a number of spots to win. … Just didn’t handle the things down the stretch that we need to handle.”

Box Score: Link

28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Small observation: Aluma should shoot more 3s. I know that’s counterintuitive, but, he can hit them. If he’s able to start hitting those his man will be forced to come guard him. Then everything will open up for Keve.

  2. Well, I’m no expert, but I would start N’Guessan in place of Alleyne. N’Guessan is athletic enough to cover some of the taller threes, and he wouldn’t be lost on the inside when the bigs get switched off of the other team’s bigs. He would be able to defend inside, would gather some much needed rebounds, and can score inside. It would take pressure off Aluma and Mutts allowing them to be more effective players. Bring Ojiako in for relief, and you still have a strong inside presence.

    Alleyne isn’t scoring so much, possibly because he’s playing so many minutes, so coming off the bench might make him better. He could spell Catoor, who might be suffering from the same thing. Murphy tends to get swallowed up by the taller players covering him, and Pedulla is a good sub at the point, but the other two could help there. Throw Maddox into the mix, and I think you could generate some synergy with the rotation in the backcourt.

    I agree that the starters are playing too many minutes, and the subs can’t help the team if they’re not getting sub’d in. We’ve got some other inside players sitting on the bench that we almost never see, but when I did see them, they didn’t seem all that bad. Just sayin…

    BTW, what’s finite math?

    1. I’m with ya. The only difference is I’d flip NGuessan for Ojiako. NGuessan will be very good one day, but right now he doesn’t accomplish much except having a body on the floor. He’s tall, but too light and gets manhandled. And he isn’t good enough (confident enough) to play outside the interior. I’m a big fan of Big John Ojiako because he gets the rebounds, he gets the garbage points, isn’t afraid to bang, and defensively I’ve noticed other bigs shy away from taking it at him. In the few minutes he gets he’s been effective. In the few minutes NGuessan gets, nothing. Again, I think NGuessan has a higher upside, but right now he’s just too light, lacks confidence, and is just a “safe” body out there. Ojiako is a bit more risky, but right now he’s who we need to free up Aluma and keep Mutts and Aluma from getting exhausted covering ACC bigs. Young, for some reason, just isn’t down with Big John. He has to take a chance and play him for an extended amount of time. What’s there to lose at this point? Mix it up, free up Aluma.

  3. “Indeed, Bacot put on a show. To go along with his rebounds, he had 14 points. Though after he started a perfect six-of-six from the floor, he finished the game 1-of-13.”

    So he FINISHED the game 7-of-19.

  4. Rebounding – Watch the game on tape again and see where the players are when a shot goes up from outside or when someone drives the lane. In many cases the other 4 players are standing outside the 3pt line watching. If you shoot 40%, then 60% of the shots require a rebound and in many cases our players are just watching and are not going in for the rebound. Yes you have to protect against the transition, but if you get just half of the 60% missed shots you have also stopped transition. Even during our set offence we have players just standing in place while someone dribbles away 1/2 of the shot clock – where is the movement? Early in the game we have movement and are passing the ball, late in the game we seem to dribble and watch. You have to play during all facets of the game for the entire 40 min and we are not doing that.

    1. Getting half of the missed shots would be astounding. We were dominated on the boards and they did not get half of their missed shot rebounds..

  5. This team simply cannot drive to the basket. You can’t simply rely on jump shots every night. They need more physical guards and forwards.

  6. Why did it appear Storm was guarding no one under the basket. Didn’t understand that defensive strategy.

    1. When? If his man isn’t a shooter (Leaky Black isn’t but of course he made more than his % vs us) then when he’s away from the ball he’s playing midline or “packline” when his man is 2 passes or a skip pass away from the ball. He providing “dig” help vs a dominant big like Bacot. Both he & Cattoor forced a couple turnovers helping the post this way

  7. I guess Ojiako is in the dog house. We could have used him to bang against Becot. NGuessan will be good one day but right now he should be the 7th or 8th guy in. Too light and too tentative; doesn’t accomplish much. Just a tall body. Ojiako should be coming in before him. The short stints he’s in he gets rebounds, he makes garbage buckets, and hacks the crap out of the other guy (which I like). Rhe more I watch our Hokies, the more I realize that our game is too robotic. There is no room for creativity. We run a stringent offense, and then give it to someone to play 1 on 1 NBA style offense. There are of course exceptions, but too few. We are not loose at all…except Pedulla. Lastly, anyone want to try and get an offensive rebound? We learn “follow your shot” in high school. We learn “offensive rebounds can win games” in high school. I’m not saying the entire team should crash the boards, but at least ONE person? How about that? This is why Ojiako would be so valuable out there. Aluma has a very hard time with the 5s because he isn’t one. I’m a broken record. Have to free Aluma up. Starters: Ojiako, Aluma, Mutts, Cattoor, Murphy/Pedula. Then go from there after you see how Ojiako is dealing with their bigs. He’s a “dog” as his teammates call him. I think Young is doing him and this team a disservice by keeping him on the bench.

    1. I’ve liked the idea of that starting line-up for a while now. Why not? Saving fouls? I did like the way Aluma came back at Bacot though in that scrum under the basket, showed some passion and fight.

    2. Ojiako is not a good basketball player. I don’t understand some folks fascination with him.

      1. Actually he has talent but doesn’t focus or play as hard as he should . He stood still watching a 6’3 guy at BC get offensive stick backs at least twice

    3. Did you watch Ojiako vs BC? One of the worst performances a 7 footer could have on a basketball floor

  8. Live by the jump shot…die by the jump shot. UNC outscored us by 15 points from the free throw line! We have no one who can take his man off the dribble to the basket and either score or score and get fouled.

    1. I have been saying the same thing for weeks, no power drives to the hoop resulting in baskets or fouls. Even though Mutts went to the bucket a number of times, he and Aluma seem to back the man guarding them to the basket and then fall away, lessening the possibility of a muscle foul, and lessening a chance for an offensive rebound.

  9. “I thought we played well enough in a number of spots to win.”

    Last time I checked playing well in spots doesn’t cut it.

    That quote is kind of like CFB’s , …”a block here, a made tackle there, & we win this game”. Basically horse hockey

  10. Game Summary:

    Final Score: UNC 78, VT 68
    Biggest VT Lead: 4 (28-24)
    Biggest UNC Lead: 13 (73-60)
    Last Lead Change: UNC 41, VT 40
    It Was Over: UNC 69, VT 60

    The Tar Heels are still undefeated at home this season, moving to 10-0 in the Dean Dome after taking down the Hokies. Tech shot the ball well, but UNC’s advantage in rebounds and free throw attempts made the difference. The Hokies don’t have time to rest, and the only break caught is getting home to Blacksburg, as red hot Miami comes to Cassell on Wednesday.

    At 10-9 (2-6 ACC), the natives are getting restless. Rumors of pitchforks and torches put away when Justin Fuente was dethroned, might be brought out of the closets, as Mike Young is facing the same type of 3rd year blues that in 2018, started FU’s demise.

    1. Yeah…I mean beating UNC at home this year is a tall order, this is true. But at this point, I think Young is in over his head. Doesn’t mean he won’t learn from his mistakes, but he hasn’t yet.

    2. Both coaches sort of put themselves in this position by performing so well early and exceeding expectations. Fuente’s was largely a result of Beamer’s players, Young’s the circumstances of COVID. I think the key difference is that Young is well-liked by his players and has been recruiting well.

      Without the outlier second year, I think our tone right now is “we are so close and will get over the hump next year.” Because of the standard set last year in an extraordinary situation, though, it’s “this team has regressed and is dangerously close to entering VT-football-under-Fuente territory.”

      I’m giving Mike Young next season to fix this before hitting the panic button. I think back to the 2005-06 season when Tech lost in the final seconds several times. The next season, that team managed to win 20 games and make it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

      1. and what? If the team does not meet your expectations next season you are going to fire CY. You guys are amazing on this board. You think your opinion counts and it does not count spit.

    3. What a depressing, useless statement. If the natives are that restless, they need to take a chill pill. Really? CMY is facing the same type of “3rd year blues” as CJF? That’s just silly. Before the year is out, this team will be much better than they are now.

      1. And you’re basing this on what? Looking at the upcoming schedule, there are no easy wins, and your statement that “Before the year is out, this team will be much better than they are now.”, can probably be said about every team in the league.
        I still like Mike Young and basically what he’s doing but think he’s made mistakes with who he continues to start, playing time, substitutions throughout the season. I have pretty much written off this disappointing year and I think next year will be the real litmus test for Coach Young. Depending on who he brings in, who stays, who leaves in the portal will be a defining moment in his Virginia Tech tenure.

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