Buzzketball Falls Flat Against Miami 84-75

The Hokies (16-7, 5-5 ACC) suffer another disappointing home loss to a basketball team from Florida.

[Mark Umansky]

There's nothing better to summarize the Virginia Tech men's basketball team's disheartening 84-75 loss to Miami than this:

With nine minutes left in the first half and his team down 14, Buzz Williams pulled star big man Kerry Blackshear in favor of rarely-used freshman P.J. Horne. He wasn't injured, he didn't have foul trouble, he wasn't sick. But the head coach proceeded to keep his junior forward stapled to a seat on the bench for the rest of the half.

And for the beginning of the second half.

And still after the under 16 timeout. And the under 12. And the 10 minute mark. And finally, with 9:02 left in regulation, Blackshear checked back in. Why the extended benching?

Williams isn't one to mince words, and if asked about his team's performance against the Hurricanes, I bet he'd give a similar analysis. This isn't to say Blackshear's two point, one rebound performance is the reason behind Tech's flat tire of a first half, but it is indicative of the bigger overall problem.

The Hokies combined poor defense with atrocious shot selection to dig themselves a hole nearly impossible to climb out of. Miami continuously lead by double digits before intermission, the cushion yo-yoing between 12 and 16 points as Tech couldn't get it together.

The infuriating part? They played really well after halftime.

Buzz's bunch protected the ball and forced turnovers, they played harder on defense, forcing more difficult and contested shots, and they didn't settle for bad jumpers like they did early on. If it wasn't for such an impossible deficit due to lack of effort from the jump, this was winnable.

"We didn't turn it over at a high rate today," Williams said. "We just took too many average-at- best shots, particularly early."

"We were trying to, trying to defend their 3s," said Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. "They were very explosive from the 3-point line and have so many different guys who can make them and get it going. Then it kind of snow balls with one guy making one and then two or three guys start making them. I think Justin Robinson is maybe the hardest point guard in the league to guard."

With 22 points Robinson nearly willed his squad back into the lead. The junior point guard was the architect of a frantic run that pulled the Hokies to within three. Justin Bibbs left his standard three-point shooting barrage behind and consistently got to the rim. Freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker continued his upswing with 15 points and used his crazy wingspan to alter jumpers.

It was a disappointing way to break a three game win streak, particularly with the last two victories coming on the road. Tech played their way back into the NCAA Tournament bubble, with multiple chances in Cassell Coliseum to impress the selection committee. And beating an opponent with a sure-fire bid would further solidify the Hokies' status among the 68.

But now, with just a month until the ACC Tournament, Williams and company face a tough task. They play three teams with an RPI in the top ten (Virginia, Clemson, Duke twice), another squad on the bubble (NC State), and the Hurricanes in Coral Gables at the end of the year.

The schedule provides multiple chances for the Hokies to prove themselves. But if they come out as flat as they did on Saturday, Tech also has multiple chances to make the wrong kind of impression.

A few quick thoughts

And despite struggling from the free throw line, Horne provided energy on the glass and on the defensive end the rest of his teammates lacked.

"P.J. doesn't always look like he fits," Williams said, "but when you watch him play, see how hard he plays and how intense his heart is beating, you know how much he cares. He played 23 minutes and him and Chris [Clarke] were the only ones who had offensive rebounds. I thought he was very efficient."

He doesn't space the floor, but Horne provides the kind of hustle reminiscent of Zach LeDay. There's something to a guy making up for his size (he's 6'5") by simply trying harder than the other bigs on the floor. It's something LeDay combined with his renowned mean streak to astounding success. It should be interesting to see if Horne gets more run moving forward.

Something I'm thinking about: can Horne play as a second big alongside Blackshear? With KJ's ability to space the floor, Horne could stay closer to the hoop to crash the offensive glass. It negates Tech's advantages when Clarke takes them to hyperdrive, but it could help against teams with serious size (like Duke).

Before we go, let's look at a few numbers:

Ahmed Hill's three point percentage out-of-conference in 2016-17: 45%.

Ahmed Hill's three point percentage in-conference in 2016-17: 29%.

Ahmed Hill's three point percentage out-of-conference in 2017-18: 51%.

Ahmed Hill's three point percentage in-conference in 2017-18: 32%.

The redshirt junior went 0-6 from the field with some bad misses from behind the arc against the Hurricanes. He went 3-13 against BC, and 3-8 against Notre Dame. I don't know what's going on with him, or if this is just a blip in what's been a very solid season.

But what I do know is that the Hokies need Hill more than they did last year. Buzz can't just whittle his minutes down if he's not hitting shots, which means we'll have to ride a potential wave of questionable shots while Ahmed looks for his groove.

Comments

Honestly, it seemed like the team wasn't very invested in the game yesterday. They played lazy and very lackadaisical. Hopefully they can get a few big wins this week.

Exit Light, Enter Night....Go Hokies

I disagree, the team was focus and fighting most of the game...

To start the game Blackshear looked aggressive and confident, feeding him in the post led us a quick 7-2 lead. Then it came off the rails as Miami went on a 27-7 run over the next 9 minutes.

During that time Bibbs looked like had lead in his sneakers. Hill looked wiped out. Blackshear became a non-factor. Clarke looked like he physically couldn't jump.

Robinson and A-W were the ones keeping us in the game. Horne checking in game us some energy and we went from getting blown out to playing even.

Bibbs started heating up and that led to him playing better D. Clarke still couldn't jump in the 2nd half but played within himself and contributed. Robinson and A-W kept up the good play. Ultimately we played a great 2nd half, and that's not quite reflected in the final score because of the fouling strategy Buzz went with.

Overall, as a team, for 1/4 of the game we didn't show up. Whether it was fatigue, illness, injury, motivation, effort.. it wasn't there for 9-10 minutes. The other 30-31 minutes it was there and we competed and even out played Miami. If Buzz and these players find a way to put forth 40 minutes of focus, we've got a chance against any team in the country.

If Buzz and these players find a way to put forth 40 minutes of focus, we've got a chance against any team in the country

Maybe start with a full 30 seconds of defense. I don't know how many times we played great defense for 29 seconds and then gave up a 3-pointer, or a missed shot with an offensive rebound that started another 30 seconds.....

I have to say I was impressed that the team was able to nearly come back from the hole they dug themselves early. If Hill gets half his season average and Horne doesn't miss so many FT, we go into the final couple of minutes with a slight lead and the entire complexion of the game is different.

But that's pretty much our season in a nutshell.......we're in (nearly) every game, but one facet or another is subpar in any given game and we are unable to compensate elsewhere - although certain players really try.

If Hill gets half his season average and Horne doesn't miss so many FT, we go into the final couple of minutes with a slight lead and the entire complexion of the game is different

So true!

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Missed the game. At least it sounded like the young kids came in and played some defense.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I missed it too, and now I'm glad I did.

Are the guys getting worm out?

Are the guys getting worm out?

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)..

That's been my suspicion recently. Bibbs, Blackshear, Hill, and Clarke look like they're hitting the wall. Our style of play and the minutes Buzz has demanded of them may be catching up. Fortunately Bede and Horne have been solid contributors when given a chance. Hopefully they proviude our guys with enough quality minutes to make a final push or at least better prepare them for next year.

Man JRob had some fight in him. He was a one man show on that come back. When they are playing that aggressively on the perimeter we need to be able to drive to the lane with Bibbs and Robinson.

Our perimeter defense stood out to me as why we lost the game. Way to many people getting beat on the first step by people who are less athletic than us. There were times when we completely shut them down, but the effort wasn't consistent until it was too late.

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

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Turnovers were better but we STILL struggle to defend the 3 ball.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

It's so infuriating. Miami went 6-9 (nice) in the first half, and then 4-12 in the second. They can defend the perimeter. Sometimes they just don't.

Fun facts:

VT has not held an ACC opponent under 32% on 3-point attempts, and only 4 (out of 10) under 40%.

VT has only held 3 ACC opponents under their 3-point average (UNC, Wake, BC).

We're allowing 3.2 more 3-point attempt per game to ACC opponents than the rest of the league (24.5 to ACC avg 21.3), and 7 of our ACC opponents have shot more 3 pointers against us than their season average.

And finally, in ACC play, VT is allowing a whopping 41.6% on opponent 3-pointers.

None of that good.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

You call THAT fun!?!?

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

It's strange because against Kentucky when they destroyed us from the 3-point line, Buzz said that he would have defended them the same exact way because the statistics said too. It seems like that might still be the motive because obviously teams are less likely to make an open 3 pointer than an open layup. Given that teams are still shooting the lights out, though and 3 pointers happen to be worth 1 more point than a layup, I'm wondering if he's going to change that philosophy. An actual rim protector (see Sags Konate at WVU) would help a lot. Our wings could close out hard on the 3-point line and funnel everything to the rim protector.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

RE: Hill's 3-point percentage dipping in ACC play...

I'm convinced the main reason it's become an issue in back-to-back years is due to his release. When we've played overmatched teams in OOC, he's got the time he needs to knock down his shot. When we get into ACC play and he's got better athletes running at him, it becomes harder for him to get his shot off effectively. I'd love to be proven wrong, but the numbers certainly aren't in his favor.

I wish he'd parlay the threat of his 3-point shot into a dribble drive more often because he's very capable of slashing to the hoop and making plays at the rim. It would diversify his game and make it more difficult to guard him.

Jump shooting is all about rhythm. If you are able to get your jumpshot off exactly how you practice, it will go in more times than not. What I think is happening is that when Hill is at a shoot around, his release is slow. Like you said, against OOC teams that aren't as athletic, he is able to use that slow release that he uses in shoot arounds. In ACC play, though, when guys close out faster and he has to get it out of his hands faster, it throws off the rhythm that he's used to.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

NIT bound...

Matty Ballgame

Help me understand your participation in this website. You've added about 20 or so posts of 1 or 2 sentences negatively reacting to individual players or VT teams. Why even bother? Are you just looking for arguments?

I'm not saying you aren't right in this case, but reading through your comments made me need a glass of that bourbon you were recommending last year.

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

I think we are still a bubble team but need that game that pulls everything together to pull an upset of Duke or Miami/UVA at their house to really cement our chances.

People forget we lost at home but Miami is a GOOD basketball team.

I agree that we have a chance. I just hate our inconsistency of this team and how we just don't show up sometimes. I wouldn't be shocked if we beat Duke or UVA, but I also wouldn't be surprised to lose to GT.

That being said, my above comment was that I can see someone assessing that we might be an NIT team because of a tough schedule ahead and our OOC structure was weak. If it was phrased that way it might start a conversation.

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

I will elaborate on my NIT bound comment. The rest of the schedule is brutal. More than likely we will need to win 5 of our last 8 games and I don't see that happening. I hope I'm wrong but not showing up ready to play especially at home is frustrating.

Matty Ballgame

You're right. It's a tough road. HAVE to beat NC State, Louisville, Clemson at home. Beat Georgia Tech on the road

Then somehow split @ Miami and Duke at home on Senior Night.

It's difficult, but the path is there.

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

Of course as I thought about this game and what was missing, etc. ESPN runs an article about how big an impact "TYRONE" is having this season at Florida, averaging 16.2 PPG. Happy to see him succeed but its exactly those TYRONE type performances that might have pushed this team over the top against Miami.