In a game where Virginia Tech couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from three (4-23), the Hokies turned to their lone bigman. Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored a career-high 31 points, leading Buzzketball to a 81-67 victory over Pittsburgh. Tech improved to 12-4 (1-2) on the season.
Blackshear Jr. was the lone bright spot offensively, as the Hokies exploited the only matchup in conference where Tech will have a height advantage.
"He [Blackshear] did a great job of positioning himself. It wasn't a good defensive effort on the post," said Pittsburgh head coach Kevin Stallings. "We just didn't have an answer."
Blackshear's dominance in the post allowed for other Hokies to rack up assists. Led by point guard Justin Robinson, Tech tallied 20 assists. Robison dished out 10 by himself, which alongside 11 points allowed him to secure his first career double-double.
"Because of how we play if we don't turn the ball over, odds are ... there's a great chance for an assist," said Buzz Williams.
Not surprisingly, Williams knew exactly what he was talking about when talking numbers. The Hokies only gave the ball away once in the first half, en route to a final turnover tally of just six. That's the first time since December 10 that Tech hasn't had 12+ turnovers in a game.
The Hokies continued their cold streak from three-point range, shooting an abysmal 4 for 23 (17%). While it's concerning to onlookers that Tech has shot 16 for 65 (24.6%) from deep in conference play, Williams doesn't believe it's time to panic yet.
"We haven't shot it well this week, for sure. We shot 78% from the field if you take away the threes," noted Williams. "I thought all the threes we shot were threes that we typically shoot. We probably needed a game like this where they had to learn we have to figure out a way how to win other than shoot a bunch of threes and make them."
This game could've been much closer or much uglier. Pittsburgh finished with 17 turnovers, leading to 22 points for Tech. However, the Panthers also shot 46% (12 for 26) from three, well above their season average of 33%. Those two contrasting extremes seemingly cancelled out as Tech beat Pitt by the same margin as No. 15 Miami.
The Hokies began conference play with a pair of losses at the hands of Syracuse and Virginia. Back-to-back L's created a must-win scenario for the Hokies on Saturday afternoon. Williams and has cultivated a basketball culture in Blacksburg that expects a NCAA tournament berth each season.
"I think we've created an expectation level here at a very rapid rate," said Williams after the game. "Which is good, but it also isn't necessarily stable."
"I think all of this is fragile. There's 70 days until the end of the year, until the end of the ACC Tournament," explained Williams. "If you win at home and if you lose on the road ... those are 'zeros' and if you win on the road it's 'plus one' and if you lose at home it's 'minus one'. If you get to 'plus one' in this league, you're for sure an NCAA tournament team."
Right now, the Hokies are at "minus-one" following their disappointing loss to Virginia. However, they have a chance to get back to even as they take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.