All through Virginia Tech’s 13 non-conference games and the early part of their ACC schedule, many Hokie basketball fans said the same thing — “this team needs a leader.”
Early on, Virginia Tech was winning games, going 11-2 in the non-conference part of their schedule, including wins against Iowa at home and Ole Miss on the road, but something seemed to be missing. Specifically, the heart and leadership shown by departed players Seth Allen and Zach LeDay.
The Hokies lacked a go-to guy, and after dropping their first two games in the ACC, a loss at Syracuse (68-56) and a blowout home defeat by Virginia (78-52), the need for a leader intensified. The Hokies won their next two games against ACC bottom-dwellers Pittsburgh (81-67) and Wake Forest (83-75) to run their record to 13-4 (2-2 ACC), but the need didn’t go away.
Enter Justin Robinson. After not leading the Hokies in scoring a single time in those first 17 games, Robinson has led Tech in scoring eight times in the last 11 games, and the Hokies have gone 7-4, including winning seven of the last nine.
When ACC play started, Robinson cranked up his scoring, without the other parts of his game suffering.
- 13 non-conference games: 10.5 Pts/game, 5.7 Assists/game, 2.9 Reb/game, 2.3 TO/game
- 15 ACC games: 16.5 PPG, 5.5 Assists/game, 2.8 Reb/game, 2.6 TO/game
The reason for the scoring increase is simple: Justin Robinson went from taking 7.4 shots per game out of conference to 11.7 shots per game in conference. He’s not just chucking up shots, either. His field goal percentage has increased slightly from 44.8 percent to 47.2 percent, while his three-point accuracy has stayed around 40 percent and his free throw accuracy has remained in the neighborhood of 78-79 percent.
Simply put, he has done more from a scoring standpoint without the quality of his overall game declining. And along the way, Justin Robinson became Virginia Tech’s top scorer. Two games ago, after outscoring Justin Bibbs 18-10 against Georgia Tech, Robinson took over the season lead in scoring from Bibbs. Robinson now averages 13.7 points/game to 13.3 for Bibbs.
Justin Robinson sets the tone and is now the guy who wants to take the game-winning shot, as he demonstrated against Virginia by driving down the lane against the Cavaliers as time wound down in overtime. He didn’t get the bucket, but Kerry Blackshear cleaned it up to score the game-winning putback, a play that wouldn’t have happened had Robinson not forced the action.
The win over Virginia capped a great week for Robinson, who was named the Naismith Player of the Week for his performances against NC State (career-high 32 points) and Virginia (20).
As the Hokies come down the stretch, Justin Robinson has established himself as the leader Seth Allen and Zach LeDay were last season, filling what was a huge void. This isn’t meant to diminish the impact Devin Wilson has had on the team, as Wilson’s defensive acumen and shot making late in the shot clock has also helped transformed the Hokies. But Justin Robinson has a better overall game, and he is out front for the Hokies in ACC play, their clear scoring leader and tone-setter.