After a week off, Virginia Tech returned to action against Florida State and the Hokies continued to struggle, and ultimately dropped the contest 91-82. Buzzketball sits at 13-6 (2-4) for the season and looks to bounce back on Monday night against North Carolina.
Justin Robinson put in the best Tech performance of the loss. The junior guard set his second consecutive career-high, pouring in 26 points and six assists. The lone stain on Robinson's stat sheet were four turnovers.
When asked about Robinson's performance, Buzz Williams got straight to the point.
"Yeah, good," said Williams. "Five's our engine, I love Five. We need to continue to work on Five's turnover rate."
The Hokies started fast. Tech jumped out to an early 10-4 lead within the first 5 minutes. However, Florida State responded with a three-point barrage. The 'Noles hit five triples in just under four minutes.
Unfortunately it was nothing new to the fans in attendance who groaned as they watched FSU's C.J. Walker hit three consecutive uncontested threes. That hot streak from deep gave the Seminoles a seven-point lead. A lead FSU wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the game.
Given how hot FSU started off the game, the remainder of the first frame was lackluster. After starting 5 for 6 from deep, the 'Noles connected on only one more from deep the rest of the first half.
For the Hokies, the story of the first half was having to play catch-up. Tech was never able regain the lead after surrendering it during the three-point onslaught around the 10 minute mark.
"I think we have a team good enough to beat any team the rest of the season, and we have a team good enough to get beat by any team the rest of the season," said Williams.
FSU benefited from a significant size advantage and 13 missed three-pointers by the Hokies in the second half.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. played only 73 seconds in the second half before he earned his fourth personal fouls. To the bench he went, and Seminoles' big man Christ Koumadje was able to wreck havoc. At 7'4" Koumadje overwhelmed 6'6" Chris Clarke.
"In the second half ... it certainly helped that they had a few players in foul trouble," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.
The Hokies' attempts from deep in the second frame seemed to always go halfway down, and then bounce right back out. Those near-misses turned into open layups or jump shots on the other end of the floor for the 'Noles.
"We got a little too spread," said Bibbs. "We found our defense, but it was too late then. They had easy lanes to get to the rim all day."
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was cold the entire game. He drained only 1 for 8 bucket from long range. His shot-selection wasn't good either. The freshman forced up some deep, contested shots that just weren't smart.
"The light's red until we get a paint touch. The light's green after we get a paint touch," explained Williams. "I think only one of the three's he shot was prior to a paint touch."
As fans started to head to the exits with five minutes left in the game, the Hokies tried to make one final run. Led by Bibbs and Robinson, the lead was cut to just six points. It was just too little, too late. FSU was able to ice the game with free throws and layups.
At the heart of that closing effort from the Seminoles, well that was true freshman M.J. Walker. The shooting guard surprised everyone when committed to FSU over the Hokies last May. As the clock ticked down, it was especially obvious why Williams wanted Walker in Blacksburg. The youngster had several contested layups and hit multiple clutch free throws. Walker scored 19 of his career-high 24 total points after the break.
"You'll have to ask his dad, or go interview him," said Williams when asked about Walker's decision to be a Seminole. "What a good player he is."
The Hokies have no time to dwell on this tough loss. Nationally-ranked North Carolina comes into Cassell on Monday night. It's a must-win game. End of story.
When posed with the question on how the team will deal with such a quick turnaround, Bibbs just chuckled and said, "Good question".
"Go home and watch film, and think about it for a few hours," added Bibbs. "We'll learn from it. Tomorrow we'll come in with a good mind. It's the next game."
And while the coaching staff is trying to stay focused on the Tar Heels, it's hard to not look further ahead. There is a sense of urgency within the program, and rightfully so.
"Right now, we're 'minus 1' and I've taught that no matter where I coach," said Williams. "With 12 games to play, how we handle this going into tomorrow ... I don't think it's going to get any easier. It gets harder."
First Half: Virginia Tech 38–Florida State 41
15:17 — Quick start for the Hokies. They're up 10-4, with three-pointers from Bibbs and Hill leading the charge. It's a promising start.
11:35 — Shocker here in Cassell. The Hokies are giving up three-pointers in bunches. FSU hit four in the last 3 minutes.
10:54 — C.J. Walker is on fire for the 'Noles. He's got three straight shots from deep. Hokies will have to start playing defense if they want to win this game.
6:24 — It's been a back and forth game so far. FSU has opened up a lead as large as 7, but Tech has it down to just two again. The 'Noles have cooled off a bit from deep.
1:17 — Terance Mann picks up his second foul of the night, to the delight of the students. Mann just about charged at the ref as well. He's not happy.
0.0 — That was the longest 1.5 seconds of my life. Hokies had a good play design to try and get a layup at the buzzer, but Clarke overthrew Blackshear.
Second Half: Virginia Tech 82–Florida State 91
19:37 — Blackshear Jr. picks up his third foul just 23 seconds in. He'll have to sit for a very long time. 6'6" Clarke will be tasked with guarding 7'4" Koumadje.
16:08 — Williams checked Blackshear Jr. in with 16:52 to go. He just picked up his fourth foul. Not the best decision by the head coach in hindsight.
12:55 — Hokies are unraveling. All their three-pointers are going halfway down on the offensive end, and on the defensive end, they're giving up easy shots. The team is starting to become visibly frustrated.
12:24 — Blackshear Jr. checks back in with four fouls. Williams is going all-in.
10:31 — Blackshear fouls out. With the Hokies down 12, that feels like the final straw.
5:37 — Angola hits a transition layup to put FSU up 71-57. Really feels like this game is over.
3:36 — Under-four media timeout, and there is a pulse inside Cassell. The Hokies just forced a turnover and have a the lead down to just nine.
1:52 — Hold on to your butts. Clarke has a chance to cut the lead to just six.
57.0 — M.J. Walker, after stiffing the Hokies and heading to Tallahassee, just made a huge steal and layup to put this game away. Ouch.
34.1 — It probably won't change the outcome of the game, but FSU just flopped hard to get that foul call. Clarke is disqualified.