Hokies Get Commonwealth Smashed by #8 UVa, Falling 78-52 in Cassell

The Pack Line was too much for Buzzketball, leaving the Hokies in search of their first ACC win of the season.

[Mark Umansky]

Three days removed from a frustrating performance in the Carrier Dome, the Hokies returned to the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum to face in-state rival UVa and their Pack Line defense. The only problem was they failed to shake off the stink from their road trip to upstate New York. For the second consecutive game, the Hokies shot under 37% from the field and looked listless for long stretches.

While the halftime deficit was a manageable 12 points — remember, the Hokies came back last season at home from a 14 point hole to win in double overtime — the Wahoos used a 15-0 run in the middle of the second half to put the game out of reach, ultimately leaving Blacksburg 78-52 winners.

After a K.J. Blackshear fall away on their opening possession, the Hokies (11-4, 0-2) went scoreless over the next 6 minutes. Careless turnovers and brick after brick caused some anxiety within Cassell, as the nightmarish cold streaks of Tech's previous outing in Syracuse crept into fans' minds.

The Hokies had plenty of looks in the first 9 minutes of play, but many of the shots appeared forced. It was almost as though the spectre of the UVa (13-1, 2-0) defense loomed, subconsciously urging the home team to pull the trigger the moment they sensed an opening. What Tech's shooters failed to recognize was that an open shot doesn't necessarily equal a good shot.

At the time, it felt like a trend that would ultimately correct itself. Surely Buzz and his players would make the right adjustments to find success against the Hoos' stingy defense. But those adjustments never came. Instead, the Hokies regularly fed the post, waiting for a double team that never materialized and ultimately forcing a contested leaner or a low-percentage fall away. They struggled against UVa's extended pressure and aggressive hedging. Justin Robinson and the rest of the Hokie guards failed to breakdown that perimeter defense and create chances off the dribble. Paint touches were hard to come by, and as a result clean three-point looks were even rarer.

Blackshear (14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks), Robinson (12 points and 4 rebounds) and Chris Clarke (7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists) were the lone bright spots for a Hokies team that turned the ball over 16 times and shot 2-12 from distance. Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs and Nickeil Alexander-Walker — the team's leading scorers on the season — shot a combined 4-15 from the floor for a grand total of 11 points. With the Hokies down 25 with just under 8 minutes to play, the trio had managed only 4 points between them. They were complete and utter non-factors, short of a handful of leaners from beyond the arc and three straight possessions early in the second half that featured Hill.

When asked about his team's offensive struggles in back-to-back games, Buzz highlighted the obvious common thread.

"We haven't shot the ball well, and I think the thing I would say on that is our turnover rate is just really high," said Williams. "It was 25 percent at Syracuse and it was 23 percent tonight. The pace of play was much faster tonight than it was at Syracuse, it was a 69-possession game. When you miss shots and you're giving them the ball 23 percent of the time, it just compounds the problems that we are having."

While the Virginia Tech offense will be the story of the game, Tech's performance on the other end of the floor was far from stellar. Defensive rotations were poor all night long, allowing an average-at-best shooting team to scorch the nets from distance.

Virginia entered Wednesday's game averaging 71.1 points per game (#263). They had exceeded the 78 points they tallied against Tech only three times this season — against Austin Peay, Davidson and Hampton — and their 12 3-pointers were 2 more than any other contest.

As UVa's shooters ran the baseline, Tech players continually ran over screens or failed to fight through them altogether, which provided guys like Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De'Andre Hunter eons to shoot. Those three players scored 13, 13 and 14 points, respectively, including a combined 8-15 shooting from beyond the arc.

In short, it was an incredibly difficult game to watch. The 9 PM tip-off on a frigid winter night during winter break noticeably sucked some energy out of a typically lively arena. Worse though, this was supposed to be the year Tech de-throned the Hoos as the Commonwealth's top team.

Pre-season hype aside, this matchup felt like it was trending in Virginia Tech's direction. The Hokies had a veteran team full of scorers, to go along with a handful of talented newcomers. The Hoos, on the other hand, lacked the veteran leadership of a Malcolm Brogdon or London Perrantes that helped Bennett guide them to five NCAA tournaments in the last six seasons. Instead, Virginia came away with their most lopsided victory over the Hokies during the Tony Bennett era.

A Few Quick Thoughts

Against UVa, the Virginia Tech offense looked slow and lacked the dynamism that usually carves up defenses and creates space for Tech's shooters. Virginia deserves credit for limiting the Hokies on the perimeter, keeping the skip pass and drive-and-kick games in check. At the same time, Buzz deserves some criticism.

Buzz has assembled a roster in his image, devoid of size but (seemingly) filled with athletic, high-IQ, solid shooting guards and wings; however, against high level opponents this season, that roster is really struggling to generate any semblance of cohesion.

Against two of the toughest defenses they'll face all season, the Hokies have looked like shells of themselves. Their non-conference schedule saw them light up the scoreboard, but Tech fans have been treated with an entirely different reality since the start of ACC play. It's only two games, but it's incredibly concerning.

Buzz was asked after the game if this was a two-game perfect storm or if the team needs to get back to doing things like it was earlier in the season.

"I would say that it is probably both," said Williams. "I think that's the case, very unique in what you are trying to do offensively against Syracuse, and very unique in what you are trying to do to attack Virginia's defense. It was a perfect storm, it was the worst we've played on both ends Sunday and tonight would for sure be worse. So, I think we will continue to get the same test, we are giving opponents things to work on to prepare against us. I think we will continue to get the same test until we figure out how to pass it."

It will be interesting to see what types of adjustments the staff makes moving forward, because what we've seen these last two games isn't working against ACC foes. Yes, the Orange and Cavaliers are unique animals, whereas Tech's next opponent (Pittsburgh) is — to put it kindly — having an up-and-down season. But to continue on the current path would be incredibly stubborn, and there's enough veterans on this team to ensure that doesn't happen.

15 games into the season and it's abundantly clear that this team is lacking the leadership of Zach LeDay and Seth Allen. They're missing that swagger; the eff you face. They're missing a dude with big [basket]balls who has enough savvy to snap offensive cold streaks and generate much needed runs. But that lack of alpha male doesn't necessarily spell doom for Buzz's bunch.

Many of the Hokies' faults are correctable: Cutting down on turnovers, being more selective with their shots (especially from distance), improving defensive fundamentals, and developing ways to generate open looks when the defense isn't falling into your trap(s).

In the four games since the loss at Kentucky, the Hokies are shooting 42.5% from the field (10% below their season average), including 26.8 from distance (15% below their season average). Remember, that run includes games against Presbyterian and North Carolina A&T. This team knows they can shoot it with the best in America — they just need to straighten things out and see the ball go through the hoop with regularity. Hopefully that occurs against a Pitt team that looked like an easy win one week ago.

To briefly switch gears, I wanted to add my two cents on the scheduling of Wednesday's game. In my opinion, it's shameful that the powers-that-be (I'm looking at you, John Swofford) would schedule a rivalry game between two 2017 NCAA tournament teams during winter break. The beauty of any rivalry game — especially in college basketball, where the fans are literally breathing down the players' necks — is a deliriously raucous crowd. Cassell Coliseum is known for providing such an atmosphere, but that ultimate potential was essentially taken away from the Hokies faithful. No one was confusing Cassell for Newman Library, but through no fault of those in attendance it just felt a little lacking. The performance was partly to blame, but so was the distinctly lower percentage of students compared to a typical game. It's a shame, and both Buzz Williams and Whit Babcock should do everything in their power to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Fin.

Comments

This makes me sad to no end. But all we can do is hashtag get better...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Getting better is actually a concern of mine when I watch this team. Clarke, Bibbs, Wilson, Robinson...all these guys seem to be the exact same players they've been. I don't feel like any of them have made significant improvements to their game over the last 2 years.

The 9PM tip off for any team on the east coast is problematic. If the game wasn't going to be on TV why does it have to start so late? Even if I lived in Blacksburg, such a late start during the work week makes attending the game challenging.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

It was on the ACC network. I am sure that's who dictated the time.

The team seems out of sync or unsure do not show the confidence of old. One for those that have a better understanding of BB. No cut intended on Robinson but it appeared to this untrained eye that he goes constantly to his left and there is always a big there to block his shot. Is this an issue?

James Lacy

This team and these coaches should be embarrassed by their performance the past two games. They can't shoot free throws,layups or three point shots ,dribble or pass without turning the ball over. Neither can they play any semblance of defense. To lose to a better team is understandable but to lose in this manner is humiliating and not acceptable.Obviously they are not as good as everyone thought but they cannot be as bad as they have played the past few games.

georgebd

I hate the expression, but "I feel your pain!

There was a stretch in the first half where we missed wide open layups, threw balls out of bounds, etc. No deep "analysis" or excuses needed there. We are not that good.

It's all about The VPISU
VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804.
Rockin the Bakken.
GO: Freeman Rebels, Keydets, Black Knights (the VMI of the North), NY Rangers & Giants, and ATL Braves.

It was extremely frustrating to watch. The baskets wasn't move, it's our own home court yet we couldn't make a shot, period. Yes, UVA's defence is good, but when you take open shots, you should make them, at least some off them. The shots attempted were not just throwing up 'prayers'.
Somethings is going on that the team lacks energy. They seemed to be just going through the motions, unconcerned of the results.

Buzz, waz up?!

Being local, we decided to go to help fill Cassell in what we knew would be a thin crowd. But man, that was super painful to watch. We had so many opportunities even in the first few minutes of the game to get easy points and take the lead, but just couldn't hit a basket to save our lives. It certainly didn't help our game experience that we had a UVA fan with the voice pitch of a freaking dog whistle near us cheering every few minutes. I hate losing to them more than just about anyone.

I said before the season started that I thought we had the chance to be better than last year, but would be much more inconsistent without Allen and LeDay, likely resulting in fewer ACC wins.

Syracuse contested just about every 3-pointer while playing their zone. UVA didn't allow any looks from three, and no one on the team has the confidence and ability to finish at the rim the way Allen did. I thought J-Rob was doing a good job so far this season of being that guy, but these last two games, he has been unable to finish.

I think we will see a lot of growth over the course of the season. This team is talented and athletic, and while we have some veteran guys, as a group/team, they're young. They still have to figure some things out. Also, Buzz said ealier in season that they had very few offensive sets installed (likely fewest in country). I think that has hurt us against these really strong defenses, but that is just speculation. It seemed like we didn't run any true offensive sets/plays agaist Cuse. It seemed like we just kept passing back and forth at the top of the key looking to get the ball to Clarke or whoever was at the center of the zone (FT line), but could rarely pass it in to him.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

Glad to see you lightin up the boards again now that it's basketball season! Fully in agreement on your analysis. I couldn't help but notice how often when bringing the ball up-court after the inbound they just seemed out of sync/not on the same page with the offensive play call.

Meh, 14 straight in the only sport that really matters

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Oh god are we really going there? We've officially stooped to UVA's level... "wait til _____ season"

I mean it was just the other day when people on here were defending charcuterie. That's right, I'm calling you charcutes a bunch of UVA lovers, I hope it burns!

What are you on about?

Ok I googled that and still have no clue wtf you are talking about lol

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Basketball does matter. Otherwise we wouldn't justify getting our shit pushed in last night by bringing up football.

Oh my, that's gross, dude.

Leonard. Duh.

There's really not much to say about the last two (really 4) games other than lets "turn the page". This team is in a terrible funk right now, but I do think Buzz will work to make the proper adjustments.

One thing Buzz cannot do is create a leader. I'm not sure that Seth Allen, Zach LeDay type of leader exists on this roster and that might be something that proves to be quite challenging throughout the rest of the season.

Is it football season yet?

My feelings exactly. I really underestimated what those guys brought to the team last year, but it's hard to ignore after that performance last night.

I think we're definitely a more talented team than we were last year, but we're missing a lot/all of the heart last year's team played with.

I am thinking the team need to hold Buzz down and shave his head. Where is the red faced, sweat stained maniac that has prowled the sidelines for the last couple of years?

Humiliating.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I don't use this term lightly and I'm not just in a pissed off overreacting mood either so here goes;

This team is soft.

There. It's been said. We've seen it all year from the inconsistent play, lack of effort, and flat out not showing up for some games. They have no real sense of effort to even play defense, no offensive cohesion if they can't run. They have no front court presence (Blackshear, while offensively skilled, is more of a finesse player). Another big would help or at least someone that plays big (like LeDay or Jae Crowder from Buzz's past teams). And probably the biggest issue tying it all together, they have no leader. No one that says "this is my team, things are in a jam right now, follow me to victory".

This teams needs a gut check bad. If they don't win the next two games, this season is toast. Buzz might as well start playing the younger guys more minutes to prepare for next year (he probably should do more of that anyway but that's a discussion for another time)

Well said. For all of the praise Buzz gets, how about recruiting some big men? If Florida State and Wisconsin can trot out 4 guys over 6'08 regularly, why can't we? And defense has been an issue for 3 years- especially perimeter defense and rebounding.

Sad part about the losses we have so far this season is that we have/had the talent and ability to win each of them. Ever since the Kentucky game this team appears to have lost its mojo. We don't have anyone with a "killer" mentality like we had last year with Seth and Zach. The season is no where close to over, but you can't afford to drop into a big hole in the ACC and expect great things. In Buzz we trust.

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

Frustrating, very frustrating. Scheduling and attendance aside, that was all around a poor performance. For a few stretches in the 1st half, UVA actually gave us the chance to get out and run and we slowed it down, playing right into their hands. Too many missed shots, too many turnovers. Need to shake that one off and get better.

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

Several things in this game stood out as major issues:

1) Inability to finish off their bigs: We were relatively successful in getting the majority of their bigs into foul trouble yet not one of them fouled out.
Diakite got his fourth foul with 15:14 remaining
Salt got his fourth foul with 8:45 remaining
Wilkins got his fourth foul with 4:21 remaining

while this may not have affected the overall outcome much in this contest it could be important in other games later on and its something that this team seems to not think about or work towards. It goes back to the lack of "killer instinct" mentioned by several above. If you got those three off the court you completely change the defensive set of UVA or are going against tired bigs rather than fresh legs.

2. Not that I am a proponent of fouling to foul, but this team takes it to the extreme sometimes to avoid any fouls. Sometimes a well placed foul sets a tone or at least puts a second thought in an opponents head. Tech finished yesterday with only 10 team fouls, UVA finished the game shooting almost 50% from the floor and the perimeter. Too many completely open looks and no threat of a disrupted shot to be found.

3. Shot differential - Due to turnovers and usually due to poor rebounding several of our previous opponents are attempting more shots than the Hokies. Last night the differential was 15 shots. We had 10 more turnovers and amazingly they only list 4 blocked shots although I think that number is low. We actually managed to win the rebounding total but that was more from UVA just getting back to play defense than anything else.

4. Too unselfish - Buzz has these guys so into passing that many times when it appears as if they could press in on a defender or have a sufficient open look to get a clean shot up, they pass instead. Normally this wouldn't be a negative, but kind of like not fouling, when you don't shoot, you don't score. Example of last night: NAW had only 1 shot and 1 trip to the free throw line last night playing 19 minutes. Wilson being Wilson played 13 minutes and went to the line once but never took an official shot. Ahmed Hill took 7 shots but only 1 from behind the arc, which is his bread and butter.

5. Inability to penetrate the zone defense from anywhere other than the top of the key. It is extremely frustrating to watch the predictability with which this team approaches offensive possessions. Some of it going back to as mentioned above, lack of set plays, but also the habits that these players have fallen into regarding their approach to the basket. It appears that the only location they feel comfortable driving to the rim from is from the top of the key or slightly to its left or right. We hardly threaten the baseline or even the middle of the court from the side. Also as mentioned above, when some of our players do drive, they do so almost the same way every time, ala Robinson across the lane to the left. Opponents and opposing coaches key of that and set their defense accordingly.

There are other issues obviously but these were the ones that really reached out to me last night.

Well said. #4 is what got me the most last night. It feels like no one wants to be "the guy." Buzz tried to make Blackshear the guy, but that got us 6 points in the first 10 minutes until Clarke came in and gave us a little life.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

On a positive note, it is good to see Clarke getting healthier and more aggressive. I didn't watch the 2nd half, but he seemed like he was in attack mode in the 1st half.

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

While I agree that the schedule for this game was bad I cannot agree with the assertion that Cassell is a top flight environment even for a rivalry game. Its dark, usually has plenty of empty sections, and the students are in a terrible location. Its only with O&M glasses that one would call it a unique and special place to watch and televise a game when compared to majority of venues in the ACC. That being said the Cassell has great potential if some serious changes were made. Ideas for improvements have been well covered on this site. So far the trajectory is in the right direction.

I logged into TKP at mid-night after the game. I was riled by our performance, not the loss. I was going write a diatribe but decided against for fear of 1000 negative legs. I will fall back on a previous comment that we lack floor leadership. We got none! If the Pack Line is so successful, why in the Shit don't we use it.

foresthokie
US Navy Vet

TKP'ing after midnight after a tough loss always leads to great reads though; I wish you had've gone for it. I would've bumped you to -999.

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

I would really like to see us try and run some plays for Clarke (near the basket) or NAW (anywhere) and let their athleticism and talent shine. It pains me to not see NAW get opportunities to show off his skill and shooting ability.

@vtscottyb