Virginia Tech rounded out their non-conference slate against NC A&T on Thursday afternoon. The Hokies took care of business, 76-59.
Tech started out slowly, turning the ball over four times in under four minutes. Unfortunately, a rough start is something the Hokie faithful have gotten used to in the past couple games. That stumble out of the gate turned into a gallup as the first half wore on.
"Our offense the way we run it, the pace we run it, it leads to open shots," Ahmed Hill explained after the game. "Shots started falling."
NC A&T played in a 2-3 zone for some of the game. It's a look the Hokies will be going up against when they take on the Syracuse Orange on New Year's Eve.
"It ended up being good reps for us," said Buzz Williams in the post game presser. "They played less zone today than they have any other time all year. If you study our numbers, the numbers that matter, we're better against a zone than we are against man. I thought it was good reps for us for sure."
Virginia Tech didn't shoot well from deep, possibly because the Aggies played so much man defense. Including a dismal 2 for 9 in the first half, Virginia Tech finished just 6 for 23 from three. It seems like the Hokies haven't been able to find their touch from deep since the Kentucky loss, shooting a combined 9 for 37 over that stretch. The bad performance in the first frame on Thursday turned around a little following halftime. The Hokies shot 4 for 14 in the second, and Hill contributed 3 of those 4. That's technically an improvement (22.22% vs. 28.57%).
At the end of the day, it was a boring victory as Virginia Tech moved to 11-2 on the season. Tech exits their non-conference schedule relatively unscathed. The Hokies dropped a head-scratcher to Saint Louis, but they also showed their potential at Rupp Arena. All in all, it balances out to an average non-conference showing.
ACC play looms, and it's a jump into the deep end from a 20-foot high dive. Syracuse and their patented 2-3 zone will be an great opportunity to see if the Hokies' three-point shooting woes continue or disappear.
"I think that this will be the most volatile ACC season, maybe ever," Williams noted. "We have seven guys on our roster playing this season that didn't play last season. That experience [ACC play], they're excited for. But I have to make sure I do a good job of getting us, good or bad, get to the next play and get to the next day."
The next home game for Buzzketball is against No. 9 UVA, so this last tune-up in Cassell was crucial. Tech has shown flashes of a really good team ‒ second half against Iowa and first half against Kentucky ‒ but also have shown signs of a disorganized team during these first seven weeks. These types of sleepwalk games where Tech can gel as a whole unit will help the team going forward.
"I really like the tools in our toolbox, so to say," Williams said. "I think the team is accepting of our weakness and willing to work to try and calm them down as best as possible. I think that's a huge step. Most teams don't get to that step."
First Half: Virginia Tech 38–NC A&T 20
16:32 ‒ Tech started slow, once again. They continue to be careless with the ball, giving it away four times in the first four minutes. Aggies are up by three early on.
10:59 ‒ The Hokies have started to shoot a little better, at a 66% clip from the field. Tech also hasn't turned the ball over since that 16:32 mark, which has probably helped the Hokies open up a 19-10 lead.
5:13 ‒ Buzzketball continues to pull away from the Aggies, up 29-17. Tech is uncharacteristically 1 for 5 from three-point range. I don't expect that to be the norm, but it does stand out.
1:30 ‒ Tech has given up entirely too many offensive rebounds. The Hokies played great defense for the entire shot clock, but then couldn't coral the wayward Aggie shot. That's an aspect that will need to improve drastically against better competition.
0.0 ‒ Devin Wilson with a nice steal and layup at the buzzer. Hokies go into the intermission up 38-20. Now, I get to watch dogs. Hell yes.
This game feels like the sleepy, bowl-game day, environment I was expecting. I'm being completely serious when I say that Cassell has been the loudest all day when two dogs just helped a third pooch jump some double-dutch. It's that type of day.
Virginia Tech shot almost 60% from the field while also holding the Aggies to under 25% shooting. The eight turnovers and only two free throw attempts are what is preventing this game from being even more of a blowout.
It's weird to write, but Tech's 18-point lead feels underwhelming. The Hokies are the far better team and it's obvious by watching the game. And yet, Tech isn't playing up to their potential. I don't think many people would disagree that this score could be much worse.
Second Half: Virginia Tech 76–NC A&T 59
17:31 ‒ Ahmed Hill hits a three to start the second half scoring for Tech. He was the only player to attempt more than two from beyond the arc in the first frame, going 1 for 4.
14:49 ‒ Justin Robinson with his team high third turnover. He was visibly frustrated with himself after getting the ball poked from behind on a fast break.
12:44 ‒ Hill with back-to-back three pointers, one from each corner. He's suddenly shooting a very good 4 for 7 from long range.
8:38 ‒ Williams gets a technical. There was an interesting travel call (albeit, the correct call), and the head coach walked out to the "VT" on center court. Juuuust a tad outside the coaches' box.
5:48 ‒ 12th turnover for the afternoon. 43 in the last three games. Sigh.
"I think our turnover rate is a concern," Williams remarked after the game. "So is our ability to end the possession with a defensive rebound."
24.0 Walk-on Justin Ammerman hits a free throw and the crowd goes wild. That should do it from Blacksburg.