Virginia Tech put the loss to Alabama State behind them and defeated Jacksonville State 71-62 on Wednesday night. The Hokies improved to 1-1 on the season, while the Gamecocks dropped to 2-2.
Rebounding and defense were issues in Saturday night’s loss. The Hokies improved in both of those critical areas against Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks shot just 37.5% from the field, and the Hokies outrebounded them 54-29. It was the most rebounds the Hokies had in a game since they grabbed 59 boards against VMI in 2009. They had 20 offensive rebounds and converted them into 20 second chance points.
Buzz Williams was disappointed with the lack of effort against Alabama State, so he held some very intense practices this week.
“Went went Monday morning before school, and then we went Monday afternoon at the regularly scheduled time,” Williams said. “Then we went Monday night after my radio show. Then we went Tuesday morning before school, then we went Tuesday afternoon at the regularly scheduled time. Then we went Tuesday night. Then we went again this morning before school, and then we went again today during the regularly scheduled shoot around.”
Needless to say, Williams was not happy about Saturday’s performance, and he let the team know about it.
“Man, is that a question?” Zach LeDay said when asked whether practice was more intense this week. “Oh my God. It’s been crazy. But we got through it, and we learned and we grew from that lesson.”
LeDay, who had 26 points and 15 rebounds against Alabama State, followed up with another good performance on Wednesday night. He was one rebound away from his second consecutive double-double, finishing with 15 points and nine boards in 33 minutes. His energy and his toughness are rapidly making LeDay a fan favorite.
“I don’t know that 26 (points) and 15 (rebounds) is who he is,” Buzz Williams said. “I don’t know that 15 (points) and nine (rebounds) is who he is. But through two games, our team definitely depends on his heart and on his toughness.”
Freshman wing Chris Clarke finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, notching his first career double-double. Justin Bibbs had 11 points and seven rebounds. Junior college transfer center Johnny Hamilton, seeing his first significant playing time, had eight points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. Freshman center Kerry Blackshear provided some critical minutes for the Hokies, finishing with six points and eight rebounds 20 minutes. Most of Blackshear’s numbers came late in the game when Tech needed a boost.
The Hokies are far from a finished product, but they improved on their two biggest issues in the Alabama State game: defense and rebounding. Unfortunately, they had 17 turnovers and were just 15-of-30 from the free throw line. The free throw shooting could be attributed to tired legs from all the extra practice that Buzz Williams put them through this week, but nevertheless there is certainly room for improvement.
The Hokies return to action on Saturday night when they host VMI in Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game can be seen on ESPN3.