And we're back into the ACC meat grinder.
Just seven days after an eye popping win over Duke, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team lost their second consecutive game. This time, a 93-78 shellacking against 12th ranked Florida State in Tallahassee.
The Hokies entered the afternoon with a deficit, as senior guard Seth Allen didn't make the trip after sustaining a head injury against NC State. With Allen absent and freshman Khadim Sy coming back from an ankle issue (which kept him on the bench in Raleigh), Buzz Williams had a limited rotation to work with.
Though Williams and company did all they could to compete, Leonard Hamilton's team just kept coming. The Seminoles used 12 men to swarm the ball for 40 minutes, causing the Hokies to cough up 16 turnovers and countless fast break points.
Tech opened things up with a frenetic tempo, which worked briefly. Point guard Justin Robinson and wing Chris Clarke probed the paint, and found shooters around the arc. But their biggest advantage early was an ever-changing defense. The Hokies threw as many looks as possible at FSU, forcing five steals over the first 10 minutes.
But, much like in their loss to the Wolfpack on Wednesday, Tech simply failed to get stops. Buzz's bunch has given up at least 44 points in each of their last five halves, and struggled mightily on their road trip.
Clarke (22 points/8 rebounds) and Zach LeDay (19 and 7) did their best against the plus-sized opponent, but they failed to keep pace. Without his veteran backcourt mate, Robinson battled problems with giveaways and fouls. The sophomore ended the day with eight points—though just 2-7 from the field—and four assists to five turnovers.
Another problem with Allen's absence was the lack of a secondary ball handler behind Robinson. Clarke took the reigns, almost by default, but the offense experienced a noticeable dip without a point guard on the floor.
The team heads back to Blacksburg in an effort to correct things over their upcoming three game home stand. First up is Syracuse on Tuesday, a team who's been up and down as much anyone in the ACC (though they come in winners of two straight).
The Hokies have a ton to get right, and not much time to do it. But it's the curse of playing in a conference this deep, and if they want to prove themselves a tournament team, they'll need to come back strong at home.
A Few Quick Thoughts
The defense struggled mightily for the second straight outing. Not only did the Seminoles get out and run in transition, but consistently beat the Hokies in the half court. The FSU guards got in the lane, found whichever big man was available at the time, and let the ball rotate from there.
But their success wasn't about the obvious size advantage at hand, Tech beat a similarly huge Seminole squad twice last year. The difference this time is that the bevy of guards Leonard Hamilton has at his disposal broke everything down off the dribble.
The Hokies were never going to be a juggernaut on that end, but have to be better to live up to their postseason aspirations.
With Allen out, Tech had five adequate defensive players available. The key word there is adequate, because they all have their flaws. But Buzz can't play five guys for the entire afternoon, which meant minutes for the combination of Sy/Ty Outlaw/Matt Galloway. Nothing against them, but let's just say none of the three would make an All-ACC defensive team. More minutes for any of them makes getting stops an even taller task.
The struggles also directly correlate to the team's offensive production. They're at their best when a wing grabs a rebound and streaks up court, keeping their opponents scrambling as the ball whips around the perimeter. And so the fewer misses the Hokies force, the more difficult things get on the other end.