WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Virginia Tech came out flat in its first ACC road trip of the season at Wake Forest on Saturday in an 86-63 loss. It’s the fourth straight year the program has dropped its first game away from home in league play.
“Steve [Forbes]’s team played better than my team from the opening tip to the end of it,” Tech head coach Mike Young said afterwards. “… We’ll be better. Have to be better.”
The Hokies (9-4, 1-1 ACC) had a season-high 12 first-half turnovers in LJVM Coliseum, which set the tone. They finished with 19 for the game. Many were forced by the Demon Deacons’ (9-3, 1-0 ACC) full-court pressure, including a five-second violation, but a few were silly mistakes. A handful of lazy passes from Tech turned into 23 points off turnovers for Wake.
“They were a lot more physical than we were,” Young said. “They were a lot more physical and jacked us up. Consequently, timing is poor. Consequently, the ball isn’t arriving on time. Disruptive and something that we’ve got to do a much better job of in that area.”
The two sides were even for the first five minutes until the Deacons used a 6-0 run to push the margin to double-digits, making it 14-4 at the 14:09 mark. Tech cut into the deficit once, but Wake Forest never flinched and soon took off. The real difference was the final few minutes of the first half where the Hokies allowed an 8-0 run that turned a 12-point game into a 20-point one.
The home side took Tech out of its rhythm. “You don’t have to steal it, you just put the pressure on and they’ll give it to you,” Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes said, and he was right, particularly in the case of Sean Pedulla. After missing two of the previous three games due to a foot injury, he had six turnovers and five points in 19 minutes for the Hokies. His backup, true freshman Brandon Rechsteiner, had three giveaways, as did Lynn Kidd.
“They’re a rhythm team on offense, they’re really good at running their stuff, so why would you just let them walk it up and run it every time?”
For the second time this season, the Hokies didn’t hit a 3-pointer in the first half. Their first make was Robbie Beran’s at the 14:46 mark in the second, and they finished with five on 16 attempts. Forbes said the No. 1 rule entering Saturday was no uncontested threes, a box his team checked. He also credited his group’s discipline to fight through screens and not dive under, among other things.
“I have to go back and look, I’m not sure there was one time where our guards went under the whole day, and we’ve been going under on a lot of those,” Forbes said. “… We forced them to shoot those tough twos. They made a couple, but they don’t like shooting those. They like shooting those other ones.”
Though Kidd scored 14 points for Tech, he did so on 7-of-15 shooting, which included a stretch of four consecutive misses in the first half. It wasn’t a terrible shooting performance from the Hokies — they were 24-of-52 (46%) — but there was a stark difference in the first 20 minutes. Wake Forest: 52 percent (17-of-33). Virginia Tech: 38 percent (9-of-24).
The Hokies have been OK out of the gate this year but were punched in the mouth almost immediately in Winston-Salem. For the third time this season, joining losses against Florida Atlantic and Auburn, they never led.
“On the road, every minute is important,” Tech forward Robbie Beran said.
Hunter Cattoor tied Kidd for a team-high 14 points, which came on 5-of-7 shooting. Tech’s all-time 3-point leader made just one shot from behind the arc, a credit to Wake Forest’s defense, and it came with 5:53 remaining in the second half. Tyler Nickel was Tech’s other double-figure scorer with 11. He made one trey; most of his points came from the free throw line, where he was 6-of-7.
Beran and Mekhi Long combined for 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks at the four spot. Beran was somewhat of a spark offensively in the second half, knocking down two threes, but it was too little, too late at that point.
“Don’t be misled — when you get your ass beat by 20 in the first, no consolation prizes for playing better basketball, … for going toe-to-toe with anybody, in the second half,” Young said.
Five Wake Forest players reached double-digits, led by Hunter Sallis’ 20. He also chipped in nine assists. Andrew Carr scored 15 and added eight rebounds while Kevin Miller and Cameron Hildreth had 14 apiece. Efton Reid was a problem, too, with 13 and eight, though he spent a chunk of the game in foul trouble.
Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will clash again in Blacksburg on Saturday, March 2, a game set for 5:30 p.m. ET on the CW. The Hokies have a week to rest before traveling to Tallahassee to face a 6-6 Florida State squad that loss to Lipscomb at home on Saturday afternoon.
Box Score: Wake Forest 86, Virginia Tech 63