Buzzketball Throttles NC State 85-75

Justin Robinson had flamethrowers for hands as he propels the Hokies (17-7, 6-5 ACC) to victory.

[Mark Umansky]

You can tell a lot about a team when things don't go according to plan.

In their game against NC State, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team went 3-10 from three point range (bad). They shot a hair over 50 percent from the free throw line (abhorrent). And, they were up against an opponent with three serious post threats (not ideal).

None of those things is a roadmap to a Hokie win. So what did they do when their usual plan went haywire?

They gave the ball to Justin Robinson, and got the hell out of the way.

The junior point guard took a blowtorch to the Wolfpack with a career-high 32 points as the Hokies won 85-75 in front of a rowdy crowd in Cassell Coliseum.

For those who missed the game, close your eyes and imagine this lone scenario: Robinson has the ball at the top of the key. Kerry Blackshear comes to screen on the right. Robinson fakes like he's heading towards Blackshear, but instead goes left.

Got it? Now repeat that visual 15 more times, with him getting to the bucket every single one of them. His explosive first step continuously baffled the hapless Pack backcourt, hitting 11 of 17 shots, with just two of those connections coming from behind the arc.

But he couldn't do it alone. Blackshear ended up with a quiet 18 points, while Justin Bibbs and Chris Clarke each had a few key baskets. But the biggest change made within the game was Buzz Williams' decision to start senior guard Devin Wilson over the ice cold Ahmed Hill.

"It's kind of that message where (Williams) knows that when he gives someone an opportunity, you already know that message that he's putting you in for a reason," Wilson said. "I thought my reason was to be that spark plug, be that defensive guy. I thought I was able to maybe give these guys some juice."

Though he doesn't quite mesh with the team's offensive identity, Wilson indeed brought the juice to both ends of the floor. The intensity on defense was noticeable immediately, and it was clear that Tech understood the message behind this matchup: "lose it, and you won't make the NCAA Tournament."

This isn't to say that the Hokies will dance come March. But had they dropped a home game to a conference foe similarly on the bubble, it would take a miracle to get back in the conversation.

In fact this sentiment was echoed by ESPN's Jay Bilas in his ranking of the 68 best teams in the country:

Early in the season, the Hokies looked like a team that would get better and better and be tough to guard all season. Well, the defense didn't come along for the ride. Virginia Tech is good, but the Hokies need to play hard all the time to win.

It's a perfect assessment. In their last two home losses (to Miami and Florida State), Tech came out flat and without purpose. And when that happens defensive rotations get lazy, shot selection tanks, and they quickly find themselves in a deep hole.

Against NC State, Tech was ready to go from the jump. They weren't perfect by any means, but their tenacity in both tempo and running out on shooters caused a lot of problems. The Pack hit 10 of 31 threes, and many of those makes were contested. The Hokies will never be a great ball-stopping unit, but effort there can lead to enough stops to pick up a win.

"We're not good enough to not play incredibly hard," Williams said in his press conference. "We're not good enough to take possession off. I thought Devin Wilson was incredible. Really helps us stay connected in what we're trying to do defensively. Every player played, I thought they were all pulling in the same direction. I thought they tried really hard. That's the highest turnover rate defensively we've had all year long."

It's a needed win to bounce back from the loss to the Hurricanes, especially as the Hokies come up on their toughest stretch of the season. Three top-15 teams in 11 days, starting with a trip to Charlottesville to play Virginia on Saturday.

A victory at JPJ is a tall task, but at least we all know the first step to a positive result: having a little extra juice.

A few quick thoughts

GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR FRESHMEN.

Tech has a really nice core of guys to play down the stretch. The lineup of Robinson/Bibbs/Clarke/Blackshear and either Hill or Nickeil Alexander-Walker is really tough for opposing teams to stop. But they also need energy minutes from the other guys on the bench. The core started to get worn down with so much playing time, and it showed on the defensive end.

Do Wabissa Bede, Tyrie Jackson, and P.J. Horne look overwhelmed at times? Yes. But their intensity on the perimeter increases, as does the commitment to rebounding.

The flip side to this is that it skews the offense's spacing in a somewhat awful way (imagine Wilson driving as Horne and NAW stand in the paint), but it's worth it for stretches. And when Robinson pushes the ball like he did against the Pack, it's much less of a problem.

I've often had issues with some of Clarke's man-to-man habits on defense, but good lord was he at his best as the second defender on Omer Yurtseven. State would throw it to their big man, and Clarke was all over him like a rabid hyena bringing down an elephant.

And speaking of Clarke, I'm in for any weird Chris Clarke things he wants to do. The hair? Great. The full-court, Logan Thomas-esq pass to Robinson at the end of the first half? Super. The weird half-court bounce passes through traffic to break the press? Sure, why not. Though he can befuddle us at times, he's by far the most exciting guy on a play-for-play basis.

Comments

Go Hokies! Great article Brian. That opening was spot on.

They gave the ball to Justin Robinson, and got the hell out of the way

Wilson's defensive energy really did carry that team and took some pressure off 5.

Great read, thanks.

"Don't go to, go through"

This was a "must win", and they must won it.

The more Chris Clarke plays, the more I believe he is absolutely identical to Deron Washington. Washington also played the 4 despite having the size of a 3 (I consider Clarke the power forward when he's in the game with Blackshear), Washington was a freak athlete just like Clarke, Washington also had some distinct hairstyles before he cut it all off at the end of his senior season, Washington also didn't have the most reliable jumpshot in the world, and Washington also played at a high level of intensity all the time. I was in elementary school when Deron Washington played at Tech and he was my first ever favorite Tech basketball player. When I watch Clarke, I feel like I'm reliving my childhood because I think I'm watching Deron Washington again.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

I was at Tech when Deron played, awesome energy. Now we just need Clarke's mom in the stands every game to complete the transformation.

so all he needs to do is teabag dunk over grayson allen and it will cement the comparison.

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)..

I would prefer him to hustle after and chase down a loose ball out of bounds while we play @ Louisville.... and happen to hurdle over the seated assistant couch Greg Paulus...then commence to watch Paulus get PTSD flashbacks of previous Hokie Nuts in his mouth piece.

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

Alright, I'm not the greatest at this but I couldn't resist

Chem PhD '16

Loved the write up. Great work

Great win. Still very confident that in this league 9-9 will get us in the NCAA tourney- which is what every fan wants- to simply be a "part of" March Madness. Lets hope we can find 3 more wins- 4 wins would be a lead pipe lock, IMO.

I think at face value it should be enough to make the NCAA tourney but when you look at VT's conference wins they have mainly feasted on the bottom third of the league. I'm concerned that could throw some cold water on what is a solid conference record. The good news is that they have opportunities down the stretch to get a few signature wins. Right now they really on have the UNC win but have @UVA, two games against Duke and home games against Louisville and Clemson to really bump up the resume.

Fair, but the same Syracuse resume will have them a 6 seed.

Glad to see Devin Wilson back in the mix and being vital to our success. His defensive tenacity and experience on the floor made a huge impact last night. For someone who has played a limited role in recent years, he has handled it like a pro and we are a better team because of it.

I have a lot of respect for Devin and he could be a key piece of the team down the stretch but it really shocks me how he literally has no jump shot. I like to remember him having some offense in his earlier days but maybe that was a by-product of the offense he was running. Even his free throw shooting looks like a struggle.

I like the spot we are in for these next 2 games. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The 4 game stretch beginning with @GT will define whether we will be NCAA or NIT bound.

DO YOU KNOW that Devin is a dual-athlete? DO YOU KNOW he played Wide Receiver for the football team? Not sure if you knew... because the announcers sure as hell like to mention it 10 times per game....

Imagine how they would react if Wilson was on the receiving end of one of Clarke's inbound heaves.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Jarrett Boykin has hands.

Bucky Rogers is tall

“I turned down 12 other opportunities. You know what I mean?” - Fuente

blah blah blah XXXXXXXXXXL gloves something something big hands.

You know, A LOT of folks (not necessarily here) have been pretty down on Robinson (& understandably so). But I don't care what anyone says, without him putting the team squarely on his back last night and hauling ass, ZERO chance we come out with the W last night.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I don't know if I would go all caps "ZERO" chance. The team played some pretty good defense.

Leonard. Duh.

How can anyone be down on Robinson.... he's by far the most productive, high octane player we have.

and watching him in person, I highly enjoy seeing him treat the refs with respect and most of the time hand deliver the ball to them even when a awful foul has ben called.

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

I like when NAW sprints away from refs after a bad call on him. I laugh every time.

“I turned down 12 other opportunities. You know what I mean?” - Fuente

Who the hell has been down on Robinson? He's by far our most consistent player and the leadership he brings night in and night out is really cool to see.

I suppose he started the season off slow but seems like after every game, Jon Rothstein and David Teel have nothing but great things to say about J Rob. He's relentless in the good and bad, which is huge for how emotional of a team we've become recently.

"It might be dark outside, but it's LeDay in here." - Jay Bilas

I meant out in the vastness of the internetverse.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I fell asleep before this game even started. Seriously, why 9pm?

I had your car towed all the way to your house and all you have for me is Light Beer?

Someone's gotta fill the TV slot. The 9PM game is the nooner of CBB.

To fill a TV slot is not a good reason when its already on Bobs Television Network.

I had your car towed all the way to your house and all you have for me is Light Beer?

I get it... but they have basketball games in other time zones.

Is this just a matter of making sure the ACC has total coverage from 7-11pm on Wednesdays for exposure?

Us Mountain Time Zone hokies really appreciate the later games. I can get home from work and get my shit together before I watch the game.

If it does take "+1" in ACC play as Buzz has alluded to, I fear the blown opportunities at home against FSU and Miami will haunt us. These final 7 remaining games are BRUTAL. Each one of the games, individually, is losable:

@ UVA
@ Duke
@GT
Host Clemson
Host Louisville
Host Duke
@ Miami

So we'd have to sweep our home games (which would include wins over ranked Duke and Clemson) and steal a game on the road somewhere (GT being the prime candidate). If we fall to Duke at home, we need to also steal Miami on the road.

Unless they really play inspired ball like we saw against Carolina, I'm predicting a 3-4 finish and a needed mini run in the ACC tourney to get in. With the exception of the UNC win and the St Louis loss, this team has really won all the games you would expect them to and lost all the games where they're not favored.

It'll be like the Greenburg days sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

Let's Go...

I think if we go 3-4 or worse we'll be sweating it out. 4-3 means we'd have at least one win over a ranked team, and I think it would solidify us.

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

I'm calling the W @ JPJ just cause I want to.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Some weird feeling (the same one I had before we beat them last year) tells me you're right.

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

It would be sweet considering we're the only thing standing between them and the #1 ranking right now since both Villanova and Purdue lost this week.

Atta boy Kville.

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

You too, bro! Sometimes you just feel it, and kinda wonder why nobody else does. Did get nervous in OT, though.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Clarke was all over him like a rabid hyena bringing down an elephant

Coming soon to C'ville! Are you ready, Hoos?

Hawking was right

We kept a very good NC State team to just 43.5% shooting and forced 15 turnovers. Amazing what a little defense on the hardwood can do. Thanks as always for a nice write-up. I liked what Buzz said postgame and that they really got to reap the rewards of what I'm sure was a tough two practices.

Virginia Tech spent the entirety of its past two practices working on its defense. So, of course, the Hokies put on a clinic on offense Wednesday evening. "It's counterintuitive," Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams admitted. "It's a paradox. It's ironic."

.....

"We haven't run one play since the last time I saw you (the media)," Williams said. "But I think when you're trying defensively to do the right things and you're going against what we were doing, you understand the value of what you want to do offensively. I've probably been too pretty and too cute, and `Oh, look at what we've done offensively and look at all these numbers.' "I need to do a lot better job. Really thankful for how we play offensively, but I really think it's because of what we did defensively."

http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/undefined

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

J Rob is totally unguardable when he WANTS to score and wow is he an athlete.. He wants to distribute, but he probably needs to take on more when others are not clicking. I really want to see him isolated with a 1-4 set against UVA vs Guy or Jerome.

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

He's less refined but he at least has the explosiveness of a Memphis freshman Derrick Rose when he wants to use it.

Let's Go...

I had issue with some of Clarke's defensive intensity. On one play, believe it was in the first half, he switched to a smaller State player leaving 5 or someone smaller to defend a post player. Shot goes up and 5 is trying to box out, while Clarke is still standing just inside the arc watching. If he can consistently play with the intensity he shows on offense, he can be great.

-@no1hokie86

Yeah, I remember at least one time seeing the 6'2" Robinson playing low against the 7' Omer Yurtseven

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Really glad that guy was in foul trouble from the very beginning last night. That made a huge difference.

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

Clarke is an enigma. One play he is completing an NBA level spin move for an easy layup and the next minute he is literally throwing the ball away on an inbounds pass (I personally think Buzz should put somebody else there). His explosiveness makes him a huge asset but his stupid turnovers and many lazy stretches just kill me to watch.

I feel like every other game the box score is... and Blackshear with a quiet (significant number of points) tonight...

I don't think we can overstate his importance to the team

I wonder if Hill has gotten into his own head. He went from being a key piece of the offense to averaging 5.5pts over the past 4 games, including posting up 0 points in 26 minutes against Miami.

Great game by Robinson last night. Hope he can keep that going on Saturday!

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

I think it has more to do with him being a one-trick pony who can't play defense. That gets exposed against good teams

Rip his freaking head off!

If J'Rob had made a few of his free throws he would have had almost 40 points last night.

Is it football season yet?

OK, Chris played really well, and I'm OK with almost all of his stuff, but the hair? No. I keep hearing Jimmy from the Mickey Mouse Club saying "And here's your ears!". After making fun of Kyle Guy all year last year, now we have to have a guy with double mouse ear buns. I love Chris's dreads, think he looks pretty cool, but those ears are not a good look for him. We need momma, girlfriend, teammates or somebody to have an intervention.
Not that it bothers me or anything.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

It would make for a nice posterization if Clarke (sporting double dread buns) dunked on a Guy (sporting a single man bun)

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

Guy shaved his head this season fortunately yet unfortunately because I liked making fun of him.

"Fishing relaxes me. It's like yoga, except I still get to kill something." -Ron Swanson

I went to my first Virginia Tech bowl game while I was in the womb.

I didn't think it possible, but he actually looks more goofy without the man bun

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

I've fenced against a guy from W&M a couple dozen times since 2010 or so, and for some of that time he used a pink mask. When asked how he expected to be taken seriously while wearing a pink mask he would answer "Exactly". The point is, if you aren't overly concerned with how you look while competing then you have the option of going with a look that fools opponents into not taking you seriously and then throttling them for it.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I wore my dreads like that for many years. I grew them for 16 years before I cut them off last summer. They were very long.
The problem with the traditional dread-ponytail is that the hair is heavy and with the way Chris runs, that thing will smack all over him and be a major distraction. The "double bun" aids in two ways.
1. It uses less hair per bundle (2 vs 1) and thus they are lighter and less noticeable when in motion.
2. Some of Chris' front locs are shorter than the rest (which is common) and numerous times I have seen Chris have to push a wayward loc back up into the ponytail. Having two buns nearer the front of his head keeps this from happening. I did not see him adjust his hair once last night.

Probably more necessity than style.

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

Dreadlock wearer 13 years in here, can confirm all of this.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

It was the Best of Clarke, the Worst of Clarke.

Clarke defensive rebound, drives length of court, spin move, easy layup.

Next possession, Clarke in-bounds against press, throws length of court to the less-than-coordinate KJB, over his head, bounces off backboard, turnover.

He did Hail Mary J-Rob though.....

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

Here to say that Washington basketball is 17-6 and 3rd in the Pac-12, and they've beaten Arizona, Arizona State, AND Kansas. Turning out to be a quality win for us after all.

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

Good. Now St Louis needs to win their conference tournament.

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

Nope. That would take away a bubble spot.

Noooooo. Rhode Island needs to win the A10 tournament. The St Louis loss is a bad look either way. That league only deserves one bid this year, it would be one less at-large for us if anyone else in there gets the auto-bid.

Don't assume VT will be a bubble team & won't be a lock.
Believe!!!

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

NCST has 4 wins against top 25 teams we need to get to 20 and I think we will be ok. Based on the schedule thats left (other than GT) those are all great programs. I don't think we are as screwed as many feel. Gotta get at least 3

Keep calm, Gobble on

FWIW: Lunardi has Tech in his "last four byes" category as a 10 seed. It's still early, but it shows Tech's destiny is in their own hands.

Great postgame by Buzz, link below. I will applaud Whit for this hire, even after both of them leave VT. Buzz is just an all around genuine guy. I feel he tries to be self observant just as much as he tries to watch after the character of his team. And he always gives the parents the accolades they deserve for raising great children. I'm sure that stuff will continue to matter when it comes to a parent trusting a practical stranger with the well being of their child for 1-4 years. I don't know how this season will turn out, but I hope he is here for as long as his quirkiness will allow him to stay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPobd79gjN8

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]