Coming into their game in Raleigh, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team was ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 2010. The emphasis in that sentence should be placed on was, due to the 104-78 demolition the Hokies sustained at the hands of the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Buzz Williams' squad began the game flat, fell down by double digits quickly, and then continued to be steamrolled over the course of 40 minutes. Freshman center Khadim Sy was scratched just before tip, meaning the Hokies had to play even more undersized than usual, but their problems extended far beyond a size difference.
Tech was run off the floor early, suffering a total defensive breakdown from the first TV timeout until the final whistle mercifully sounded. Wolfpack guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Terry Henderson controlled the game, and found little resistance from the other side.
Add additional productivity from forward Abdul-Malik Abu (20 points and 11 rebounds) and swingman Maverick Rowan (13 off the bench), and State continued to add insult to injury.
Yes, the Hokies did their best to fight until the end, but it was never going to be enough. The Hokies were down 25 points at intermission, and never stood a practical chance for a comeback.
Not one player on the roster had a good night. Zach LeDay led the way with 16 and six boards, but wasn't particularly efficient and struggled with the State front court. Ahmed Hill had 17, but sat for long stretches with foul trouble.
The bench squad of Seth Allen and Ty Outlaw (the only two non-starters to see the floor) were completely ineffective. Chris Clarke didn't have his best outing on either end, and Justin Bibbs was absent as a shooter.
All of which ended in an absolutely forgettable performance for the Hokies, which they'll need to move past quickly.
Thanks to the difficult nature of the ACC, things won't get any easier. After this shellacking, Tech heads down to Tallahassee to play a Florida State team who just beat UVA in Charlottesville. Yes, the big New Year's win and AP poll ranking were nice, but they both could be far in the rearview mirror after Sunday.
A Few Quick Thoughts:
The defense was terrible, which is where this game starts and ends. Against Duke, the Hokies did a tremendous job grabbing a defensive rebound, and moving in transition. On a countless number of possessions against the Blue Devils, Tech had a hand in a shooter's face, got their hands on a board, and immediately pushed.
It made for great highlight plays in the New Year's Eve upset, however against the Wolfpack, we didn't see the same kind of breaks outs. And the reason is very simple.
When you let your opponent hit 64% of their shots, it's a hell of a lot harder to get out and run. Therefore everything Tech did on the offensive end was much more difficult. LeDay and Clarke consistently found traffic in the lane, and everyone's shot was just a bit more contested with the State defense already established.
Yes, the ACC will be a bloodbath this year. At least 10 different schools could make the tournament when all is said and done. But this result is an absolute disappointment for Buzz's bunch. Not only did they play poorly, but they borderline no-showed (particularly on the defensive end.) NC State is an okay team, but not one which should beat the Hokies as badly as they did.
The loss should serve as a brutal wake up call to fans who wanted to make postseason assumptions after their win over Duke. This wasn't even close to the same bunch who won in Cassell Coliseum four days ago. And if this kind of Jekyll and Hyde mentality persists throughout the rest of the conference schedule, we're all in for a long winter.