Virginia Tech Drops Second Straight at Clemson

It's reality check time for Buzzketball.

Buzz Williams expresses his displeasure to a nearby official. [Mark Umansky]

Virginia Tech is on a skid.

The Hokies (18-5, 7-4) lost to Clemson (15-8, 5-5) 59-51 on Saturday afternoon. It's the Hokies' second-straight loss without star point guard Justin Robinson, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed foot injury.

Tech continued its recent offensive regression, this time against a .500 ACC team. The Hokies finished the game 15 for 53 (28.3%) from the field and 5 for 19 (26.3%) from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Clemson shot 19 for 46 (41.3%) and 11 for 28 (39.3%) from distance, burying 7 threes in the first half alone. Shelton Mitchell led the early onslaught going 5 for 6 from bonus-sphere in the first 20 minutes. He paced the Tigers with a game high 22 points. Clemson also tallied 12 blocks against the undersized Hokies, 7 courtesy of senior forward Elijah Thomas. In short, the injury-riddled Hokies were outclassed.

After the Hokies' 72-64 loss to Louisville, the consistent message emerging from the locker room was that this is a new basketball team. Between suspensions, injuries and eligibility questions, the scenario certainly wasn't ideal, but the Hokies sounded confident they'd return to form given a week of practice time. That was the soundbite on Monday night.

Five days later, it's tough to maintain the same level of optimism.

Lack of offensive firepower seems to be the most glaring issue. With the scoring load being distributed, the supporting cast of Wabissa Bede, Isaiah Wilkins, and Ahmed Hill struggled miserably. Hill went 3 for 11, all in the first frame, and 0 for 3 from deep. Jonathan Kabongo made more shots (1) than Bede and Wilkins combined (0). Add in Kerry Blackshear Jr. fouling out and Nickeil Alexander-Walker continuing to look uncomfortable handling the ball, and it's easy to see why the Hokies are slowing the pace so considerably.

However, stats can be rehashed all day long. The bigger picture is what's more important for the Virginia Tech team right now as March draws near. But the bigger picture isn't a necessarily pretty one.

Let's revisit the post-Louisville checklist Marcolini outlined for a winning effort and see how that went.

They need to force turnovers, contest every opposing shot, and pray like hell that the open shots don't go in.

Virginia Tech forced 12 turnovers, but failed to close out on countless Clemson shooters in the first half. And their prayers went unanswered.

They need to make their own shots, and limit the number of possessions their opponent sees.

Virginia Tech did not do that. The Hokies made 6 more shots than NC State did last Saturday.

They can't run into foul trouble.

Blackshear and Alexander-Walker fouled out. That's a red 'X'.

They need to make their free throws.

Here's the first checkmark. The Hokies went 16-17 (94%) from the charity stripe. That's a drastic improvement from the 71% effort against Louisville.

They absolutely cannot turn it over.

Eleven turnovers sans Robinson isn't terrible, but 5 from Alexander-Walker is concerning as he shoulders more of the offensive load. Call this one a push.

They need to box out and rebound.

Check. Buzzketball outrebounded the Tigers, 37-31, including an eight-rebound performance from backup "center" Ty Outlaw.

They can't let their tired legs get the best of them and they need to play with heart for 40 minutes.

The Hokies played with heart for about 32 minutes. Virginia Tech cut a 47-40 Clemson lead to three, 47-44, with 7:35 remaining. However, the next made Tech basket would come with 13 seconds remaining. It was an Outlaw triple drawn up in a timeout so the Clemson margin of victory ended up less than 10. Because that matters in the new NET metric the NCAA created to replace the RPI. Seriously.

Marcolini seems to have created a good measuring stick for this team without Robinson. Both losses with Five on the bench have been nowhere close to checking off that list.

Looking Ahead

47. 64. 51.

Those are the three point totals by Virginia Tech since Robinson went down. If given a guess, and without knowledge of the outcomes, which game sounds like a win?

The fact that Virginia Tech beat NC State is still surprising. The Wolfpack were historically bad.

And in reality, winning a game by 23 points while only scoring 47 probably provided false hope. False hope to the fans (ranked win on the road!) and false hope to the team (we can win without Robinson!). Throw out an inept performance from the Wolfpack, and Tech is on a three-game losing streak.

A mid-week tussle with Georgia Tech awaits for the Hokies, as Buzz Williams' crew will try to build momentum against a reeling Yellow Jackets squad sitting at 3-7 in the ACC. And it's difficult to underscore this game's importance.

Take a look at the schedule for the rest of February following the game against the Yellow Jackets. At Pittsburgh, UVA at home, at Notre Dame, Duke at home. Given how difficult road wins are in the ACC when full strength, it's hard to chalk up either of those trips away from Cassell as Ws. And Virginia and Duke are 2nd and 3rd in the country for a reason.

It's time to consider that without a win against Georgia Tech, the Hokies may enter the coveted month of March on a significant losing streak. Wednesday night looms large for a team that is now struggling to stay afloat.

The Hokies' season has gone from lofty expectations to salvage operation in short order. In November, the chatter consisted of sunshine, an NCAA tournament run, and ACC double-byes. But now, that upbeat outlook has been replaced with worried murmurs of whether this team is one dance and done, or worse.

Comments

#FreeNolley

no joke...

... When is 5 back in the lineup? No, really! What is our real intel on his status?

I said to myself when he went out that we should ride out the storm as long as the team can squeak by. Well, we're 1-2 with that approach. I have zero insight in to whether or not he's capable of going back in, but I have to think that if he's ~80% his normal self the Buzz has to be weighing the options. What does another 9 days buy JRob in terms of getting healthy? Does he even push to get him in the lineup against UVA? Do we need the conference Ws now against weak(er) competition and put him back for GT, Pitt, or both? Or, do we let JRob really heal and hope we play .500 before heading in to the ACC tournament?

The committee takes in account injuries for seeding so as long as we aren't going winless without him, let him heal for March

"I'm too drunk to taste this chicken" - Colonel Sanders via Ricky Bobby

They might take injuries into account, but all they know is he is out. If he's to come back this season Buzz needs to make some sort of announcement closer to the selection time that he is or else they assume he's not.

He was on crutches today for the first time. That makes me wonder if he had (likely season ending) surgery. Pure speculation, but it's not looking good

"We", as Hokie fans want Justin to heal completely, to his, his doctor's, and his coach's satisfaction. How much we miss him cannot enter the equation.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I don't see the point in rushing him back for the UVA or Duke games. I think best case scenario is that he comes back for Senior night vs Miami for limited minutes and then is ready to go for the ACC tournament. Worst case is, well I don't want to talk about that....

This is the best case scenario imo. We aren't beating UVA or Duke even with him healthy, so don't rush him back. I'm not even sure it's worth bringing him back for the ACC tourny. Let him heal up and hopefully we can survive well enough to get a NCAAA tourney bid and make some noise. This team looks lost with out JR5.

Where's the beef?

Really?! I do see us beating UVa. They were shouting lights out when we played at there place last time. I don't think that will hold true again, and I think we'll shoot the 3's a lot better this game.

Don't give up!

I hope I am wrong, but it feels like everything, and then some, will have to go right for us to win that game.

Where's the beef?

I say bring him back for the ACC tourney so he can shake the rust off.

Also with him I think we have a chance to beat UVA. It's in Cassell and we always play better there. They won't shoot lights out again either. It's a long shot but could definitely happen.

"It's a miracle in Blacksburg, TYROD DID IT MIKEY, TYROD DID IT!"

This season has gone from really promising to looking for ways to win, all due to a foot injury to one player. One damn good player!!

And a knee and an ACT score

and a dismissal and a transfer and a redshirt. 7 scholarship players at that point two of those freshman.

Totally forgot about Pig. He'd be useful right now.

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

Aside from the game I was a little annoyed with Clemson's fans. It felt like they were begging for a walk every time one of our players pulled up and were booing every call even if it was an obvious foul. It's not like they weren't getting calls. They had one possession near the beginning of the 2nd half where we picked up 3 fouls and we had two players foul out.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Par for the course for their fans, based on my (albeit limited) observation. Can't really say if their behavior is any better or worse than other fans, though, since Littlejohn is the only opposing team's coliseum I've experienced.

"Tajh Boyd over the middle . . . and it's caught for an interception! Michael Cole, lying flat on his back, ARE YOU KIDDING???"

Same here. I had a worse experience than I've ever had at a Clemson football game. It was almost comical how many people didn't know what a travel is. Not to mentioned we got yelled at by several people while walking back to our car including one guy who cussed us out as he drove by.

Using /s is for cowards.

Did anybody in the post game presser ask Buzz for an update on Robinson's status?

Is Cassell Coliseum the only stadium in college P5 basketball without luxury box seats?

Doubt it, this isn't the NBA

"That man was violating a city ordinance, and I was just doing my duty to enforce it." - Mike Curtis

"You boys in there smokin' rope?"-Johnny Unitas (circa 1973) to his San Diego Chargers teammates

Its one of the few yes. Even VCU added them.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Hate to rail on anyone given this situation, but it seems to me that Bede has to step up his game offensively. If he doesn't take the open shots or drive and score or kick out a little more, it's hurting the overall flow of our offense. Plus, opposing teams know they don't need to guard him very closely because he's not a scoring threat, thus affecting how closely the other 4 on the floor are covered.

I guess Alexander-Walker can also run the point, but you can tell he's not used to it, often trying to force things, and doesn't have the quick twitch of most ACC-caliber point guards, all of which leads to the turnovers like we saw today.

All I know is that if we don't figure out how to manage our offense to function at least somewhat efficiently without Robinson, we're going to be on the losing end of a lot of games, and on the bubble in short order.

"That man was violating a city ordinance, and I was just doing my duty to enforce it." - Mike Curtis

"You boys in there smokin' rope?"-Johnny Unitas (circa 1973) to his San Diego Chargers teammates

Bede has to step up his game offensively. If he doesn't take the open shots or drive and score or kick out a little more

I praised Bede earlier in the season when Jrob was on the bench for tenacious D and commented I was a little bit hesitant to call him a good PG. He needs to take ownership out there. He's good, has the ability to be good, but you can tell he's hesitant and lost. He should have made that foul towards the end instead of having NAW foul out, he's dishing open looks, and very hesitant to go inside.

Understandably a huge change with what's happened with JRob. Bede has to settle in to lead the team as a PG instead of being used as a filler role to rest 5. Hard to blame the guy for being hesitant; it's not his role, he's uncomfortable, and doesn't want to fuck up.

Bede just does not have the ball handling ability of JR. The team can beat their chest all they want about no excuses gotta make this happen without JR. Fine. But you cannot push a rope. And neither Bede or NAW seem to have the ball handling abilities for success.

Looks like he is afraid to shoot the ball out there. Saw him have a handful of open looks and turn his back to the basket and look for an outlet pass. Cringe-worthy basketball.

He only looks comfortable shooting the dang ball when he has an uncontested catch-and-shoot option from the 3pt line.

Bede is not carrying the ball very well. He is looking like he is scared to penetrate and shoot. If he's a point guard, act like one, step UP!

I'm hearing Robinson broke his big toe. i true, I'm sure that is painful and takes time to heal. Get better SOON!

Probably because he gets packed every time he goes to the rim

Recruit Prosim

Between suspensions, injuries and eligibility questions, the scenario certainly wasn't ideal,

Sound familair?

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

On a positive note, I was in Charlottesville after their festival tonight and it was awesome. I was walking down the mall yelling "Go Duke!" (it sounded so wrong) at everyone I saw dressed in blue and orange. Trolling? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

Hate this adversity we're facing guys, but we're going to emerge from this hell hole. I know it.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

i spoke to a reliable source yesterday about robinson returning. He said thy are targeting the FSU home games as the return date as of now. take that for what its worth.

"I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them." - Lee Corso

To clarify, do you mean at FSU on March 5?

Any word in Horne returning? Would help if he was healthy in March.

"The Cup is going nowhere MIkey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I think he is done for the season. Someone else on this forum noted that Buzz's seems to have a system based on what these guys are wearing at gametime. If their in street clothes, they are redshirting or out for the year.

It's tough to say if there is any merit on that, but 5 was in street clothes so he would be done too if that happens to be true.

Hokies are bad without JRob and that makes me sad. I'm not sure when they'll break 65 points again without him.

This season is such a frustrating 'what could have been' and after these last two L's i'm wondering how far they will slide. I don't know that a 9-9 squad in the ACC with no JRob gets a tournament bid, if he really is done for the year. They would have to drop 7 of their last 9 to finish .500 in conference and would have no momentum heading into tournament season.

The margin for error is so damn thin in these remaining games, with this lineup and you can basically count on a couple of crappy fouls from KBJ and NAW, the only two guys left on the team that can create their own shot in a 1 on 1.

Pray for my walls these last few weeks, they are going to take a beating.

And it's difficult to underscore this game's importance.

No, it's not. BEATING GEORGIA TECH IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT!

;^)

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

I mean I didn't expect a natty or anything but didn't expect the season to this way....really how I feel at the moment for the season

yup....not out of it completely but this seems like it going downhill fast. Someone needs to step up w/o 5 in there.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd