Hokies Notch First Victory With 71-62 Win Over Jacksonville State

It wasn't pretty, but improved defense and increased intensity put the Hokies in the win column.

Tip-off against Jacksonville State. [Joey Coogan]

Following the Hokies' season-opening stumble at the hands of Alabama State, head coach Buzz Williams channeled his inner Friday Night Lights and held two-a-day practices leading up to Wednesday's matchup with Jacksonville State.

Asked if the intensity level was raised in the wake of the Hokies' setback to the Hornets, junior forward Zach Leday countered with a question of his own.

"Man, is that a question? Oh my god. It's been crazy," laughed LeDay.

Those crazy practices — paired with a dominant performance on the boards — propelled the Hokies to a 71-62 victory over the visiting Gamecocks.

The Hokies outrebounded Jacksonville State 54-29 and limited the guard-heavy offense to 37.5% shooting from the field. While Williams wasn't fully satisfied with his team's performance on the defensive end, he was pleased to see more effort on display after a showing against Alabama State that he called "disheartening."

"To see so many people here for Game 1, for the things that we want our program to be about, and the things our institution was built on, for us to have the effort that we had, that was just so disheartening to me," said Williams. "I thought the things we wanna be about were much more evident tonight. We're a loss down and four days late, but maybe we can manufacture it for a longer period of time and get some of those people back."

The Hokies were once again led by Zach LeDay, a South Florida transfer who took full advantage of being matched up with a guard for the second straight game. LeDay, who at 15 points and 9 rebounds came up just one board short of his second consecutive double-double, has been the linchpin of the Hokies on both ends of the floor.

"I think Zach has been good...I don't know that 26 (points) and 15 (rebounds) is who he is. I don't know that 15 (points) and 9 (rebounds) is who he is. But I know what his heart is," said Williams. "Through two games, our team definitely depends on his heart and on his toughness. A lot of what he does as it relates to those numbers, it's just based on effort. It's just based on the edge that he plays with."

Chris Clarke impressed once again despite appearing out of control at times with the ball in his hands. Clarke will have to settle down on the offensive end to limit his turnovers, but Williams knows the future is bright for his heralded freshman.

"I think he's hard to guard when he doesn't over-dribble," said Williams. "I think he'll figure out sooner rather than later the more you over-dribble, the higher probability is you're gonna turn the ball over. But he's gonna get fouled. And he's gonna go to the glass."

Seth Allen, considered by many the Hokies' best player entering the season, had a second straight forgettable night marked by head-scratching turnovers and questionable shot selection. Despite a rocky start to the season, Williams hasn't lost any confidence in the Maryland transfer.

"He's as polished of a kid as I've ever coached in many respects...His feel for the game is as high as any player that I've coached. It's Jae Crowder, it's Wesley Matthews, it's Jimmy Butler-esque," said Williams. "...He really cares. He's really excited to be at Tech. He's really excited to finally be eligible. Is he pressing? I think he's pressing in that he's trying to overdo things offensively...He wants to be really good all the time. He wasn't good tonight. He wasn't good on Saturday. But I will never bet against him."

With Allen playing just 21 minutes, Justin Robinson got 27 minutes of action and ran the team effectively. Robinson led the Hokies with nine free throw attempts, a sign that Robinson should be able to create shots of his own late in the shot clock by slashing to the rim.

Johnny Hamilton and Kerry Blackshear each had productive nights, but returning sophomore center Satchel Pierce did not play. Devin Wilson remains sidelined with a strained adductor, and Williams does not expect to get the junior point guard back on the practice floor this week.

The Hokies traded the lead back and forth throughout the first half but managed to enter the break with a 38-33 lead, a positive given that Jacksonville State benefited from four fast break layups off of live-ball turnovers and two three pointers on possessions that should have resulted in turnovers of their own.

The Hokies jumped out to a ten point lead early in the second half, but the Gamecocks battled back and cut the Hokies' lead to three with 2:40 remaining. The Hokies answered with buckets from LeDay and Blackshear, and the defense buckled down and got enough stops to seal the victory.

By no means was it a perfect showing — the Hokies shot 50% (15-30) from the free throw line and limped to a 25% (4-16) mark from behind the arc. But negatives aside, Williams was happy to see his team answer the bell after a gut-check season opener.

"I thought we were all back on the same page today," said Williams. "...They really didn't have a choice but to respond. And they did."

Comments

Not as high scoring as the Alabama State game, but glad we got the W. We outplayed them all night. We still left a ton of points on the board with the missed FTs, which is unacceptable by all standards. The rebounding was significantly better tho as stated. I did a double take after Buzz compared Allen to the likes of NBA starters now. Only thing that kinda has me having my head scratching after the first two games is the lack of presence from both Bibbs and Hudson. Sure Bibbs put up 11 or whatever it was tonight, but it was about the quietest 11 points I've ever seen. Hudson on the other hand has been pretty much a no-show in both games. By the end of last season, they were our most dependable overall players and now they're barely touching the ball. Good to hear Wilson will contribute when he gets back. I think J Rob is gonna be really, really good but he's not there yet and Allen's play has been disappointing to say the least. Still overall, we have a lot more talent than I'm used to us having. Dare I say Chris Clarke will be playing at the next level some day...

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

If anyone fits the Buzz Williams protege turned NBA contributor, its Chris Clarke.. high motor, undersized forward, good nose for the ball, and he fearlessly attacks the rim. Him and Robinson will be a fun combo over the next few years.

Bibbs is a quiet scorer. He puts up points and you look up and think, when did he get 10 points? The problem is that we need him to score more without forcing things. He needs to get the ball on kick outs more, but he's also not creating a lot of opportunities for himself because he's not moving without the ball. If they set screens for him, do some pick n pop action he starts averaging 15 ppg and that would change a lot for us. He had 8? points in the first half and helped us take that halftime lead, but disappeared with only 3 points in the 2nd. Having another half like his 1st would've made the game a little more comfortable. Also doesn't help that he missed his free throws.

Outside it's night time, but inside it's LeDay

There is still much room for improvement. They have the shots, they have the speed, they have the height. Using a quote from "Cool Hand Luke"..."they just need to get their minds right".

The older I get, the better I was...Go Hokies!!!

A win is a win, and Jacksonville is not a state!

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"

I was shocked to find out it was in Alabama.

I only watched the 2nd half. Three observations:
1) Back Court: the +/- with Justin Robinson running the point was way better than with Seth Allen. Robinson attacked the rim, swung the ball, and created shots for his teammates; Allen seems like more of a shoot-first guy.
2) Front Court: LeDay is all hustle 1st team, and Blackshear showed a nice touch around the rim, particularly operating with his back to the basket.
3) Defense: Way too many blow-bys by Jacksonville from the perimeter. Might be a product of the 2-a-days and guys just had heavy legs in the 2nd half, but "they've gotta move the puppies," as Bill Rafferty would say.

Just curious, how do you think Justin Robinson compares now/will compare this season to Devin Wilson in terms of handling the ball and facilitating the offense?

"Stick it in, stick it in, stick it in!" - William Addison Caldwell, 1872

Really hard to say after watching Robinson for 1 half... but I think Robinson will have a better career just given that he's the first true PG that Buzz recruited thus he's probably a nice fit in Buzz's offense.

I would also be totally okay with Wilson balling out in his last 2 years and proving me wrong.

Also, much respect from a fellow former Vawter inhabitor (06-07).

I think Robinson is the real deal. Probably not NBA, but he could be a really great college PG.

Outside it's night time, but inside it's LeDay

Bring your daughter to Vawter!

"Stick it in, stick it in, stick it in!" - William Addison Caldwell, 1872

Outside shooting is an issue. We'll get zoned to death if we can't find some dependable shooters outside Bibbs. Feel like Allen, Robinson and Hudson, maybe Clarke have it in them.
Robinson has to play a lot if Wilson is not back. We went from tied to +12 with him in then to +2 or so when he went out, then extended again with him in. He looks like the kind of guy who can quickly become the soul of the team. A Brian Randle type guy

'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'

Blackshear can drain them too, may not have seemed apparent last night but thats what the scouting reports say.

Outside shooting is a definite concern, so its defending the 3. Way too many open looks for JState last night.

Also, Leday made his only three of the night. If he can even go 1-3 from distance it will help draw people out of the middle

Here lies It's a Stroman Jersey I Swear, surpassed in life by no one because he intercepted it.

There are going to be sooooooo many free throw drills at practice.

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic. Frequently misspells words.

*This is my first post on TKP! I've been a lurker for awhile and finally decided to make an account.*

My takeaways from the first two games (attended the first in person, watched the second on tv):

1) Out of all the new faces, Leday seems to have the most polished game. I will be interested to see how he fairs against teams with more size. Will his mid-range game look as solid? Regardless, he brings a lot of heart, good energy, and a veteran presence.

2) I have not been impressed with Allen. I know it has only been two games, but his lack of ball distribution and high turnover rate are the two areas that a PG with 2-3 years of ACC experience should really have locked down. I will just have to trust Buzz's judgement until I see different.

3) Some of our players looked gassed as early as halfway through the first half. I saw quite a few guys breathing heavily with hands on their hips. The other two teams that we've played have looked to be in better shape. I'm guessing this can be attributed to the freshmen not yet being fully conditioned for the speed of the college game.

4) Everyone has already mentioned all of the mistakes that can most likely be attributed to the youth of this team. That being said, I don't think we've had this level of athleticism on the squad in at least 5 or 6 years. Once the team starts gelling/cleaning up the freshie mistakes, I think we can compete in the ACC. Hopefully that happens sooner (this season) than later (next season).

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

1st leg for you!

Only a casual basketball fan the last few years, but I thought Allen was more SG than PG.

Can't ask a SG to do PG duties. Help out yes. If he has a good relative matchup to take the ball up the court yes.

To me, PG is the #1 spot I need on a basketball team. Until we work PG out its gonna be rough.

I don't know much about his Maryland days, so I guess I just assumed him to be a PG based off of his height (6'1"). Even as a true freshman, Robinson has looked way better than Allen at the PG spot.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

some good, some bad so far.

This was a great game for Robinson, a guy I think will be a key player for us this year. He's getting to the rim with ease and I think he's going to be a good shooter....from the line and the arc...as the season wears on.

Also a good game for Clarke who I wasn't as high on as some. Still hasn't shown the jumper he is going to need that will bring the defense out on him, allowing him to get to the rim. But he's electric in transition, has a nose for the ball and looks good at the line.

I love Blackshear. I don't love Hamilton, but he at least looks capable of giving us what Pierce gave us last year. Hopefully Pierce can pull it together, but a DNP is tough to deal with in the 2nd game. Hudson's time on the court is also a painful marker of where he is on the team right now.

Allen will come around. He may not be the savior we had hoped for, but he will be an important cog to this team. Bibbs looked better in the 2nd game. I'm skeptical of LeDay, he looks like a tweener to me that will suffer in ACC play.

LeDay will fall off of the map as soon as a team can get a 3 or 4 face guarding him.

Leonard. Duh.

If a 3 is guarding him, I like our chances down low. One thing we haven't had to really deal with yet is foul trouble, so it will be interesting to see how LeDay attacks when he's picked up a few fouls early into the second half. LeDay might be 6'7 or whatever they list him as, but he plays a lot bigger than that. Maybe I'm just drinking the cool aid, but he just seems like the new Jeff Allen except with a high motor. Only two games in and he's by far my favorite player to watch so far.

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

Fall off of the map is a bit harsh. Sure, his production may go down but I suspect that he will still contribute in a positive way.

In Sam Rogers we trust.

Fall off the map meaning he's not going to be a 20-10 guy... more like a 8-5 guy.

Leonard. Duh.

As I said last night in the other thread, we have to improve our free throw shooting. We are leaving way to many points unclaimed. No team should shoot less than 75% as a whole.

Very impressed with Clarke and LeDay. Their production might slump off when we start playing more big guys but they have both been good so far.

Very unimpressed with Allen, he just wants to drive to the basket or shoot (and he misses way to much). He doesn't appear to be looking to pass to anybody else. Even if he is fouled, he has been missing the free throws. A guard has to make them!

Buzz appeared more fired up last night than at the first game.

Uhh can I buy a free throw, Pat?

This team has no chance of being competitive in the ACC if their missing 50% of their free throws. I feel like they have been at the the line plenty through the first 2... sadly they couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat.

It was nice to see them close this game out when Jacksonville State made their late run, since we didnt handle it in game 1.

I hope the two-a-days continue even after the win, lets just hope one of those sessions is spent entirely practicing from the charity stripe.

Also, play defense, especially on the perimeter. Through two, opponents are taking just under 30 attempts from 3, we're lucky the % has been low. If it wasn't for the absolutely dominant rebounding margin and the impressive effort on the offensive glass, we might have lost this game.

If it wasn't for the absolutely dominant rebounding margin and the impressive effort on the offensive glass, we might have lost this game.

Well yeah, but that's a lot of credit to us and our efforts. Yep the free throws are killer, but honestly I'm just really pleased to see a team with the desire to attack the glass like we have the past two games. Everyone said rebounding was what cost us the game against AL St., but except for the offensive putback with like under 1:30, I thought we rebounded pretty well in that game.

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

Old saying, you live by the three, you die by the three.

For those who went, did the place "feel" empty? It looked, and for the most part sounded, that way on the ESPN3 feed.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Yeah that one view as the camera panned around the stadium was just sad. I wonder what kind of attendance dropoff there was after the first loss at home.

This is in response to this post and your one on the other thread. It was comparably a good crowd for us. It was a significantly better showing, at least from students, then it would've been for the same game last year. Our team has low expectations, the school has little basketball culture, we're playing a fake school (Jacksonville isn't a state and they're likely not accredited), and it's a Wednesday night during crunch time in the semester. But a fair amount of students showed up and were pretty loud. I've been there when its been way way worse and I can see the improvement not just in attendance, but what's probably more important in the energy of the crowd. People weren't just there to watch, they were pissed when we didn't make free throws, when Allen didn't play well. Standby line would've made the crowd better and I would encourage everyone to contact the athletic department to bring that back.

Outside it's night time, but inside it's LeDay

we're playing a fake school (Jacksonville isn't a state and they're likely not accredited)

Hope this was a poor attempt at humor. You really think the NCAA would allow an unaccredited school to play in any division, let alone D1?

A school we damn near almost lost to, btw.

Always choose joy.

I obviously know they're accredited, I'm not an idiot, and if you don't like my humor that's fine. The point is they're a no-name, low major team that we schedule, like Alabama State and North Carolina A&T, as a way to get game experience, not unlike the FBS teams scheduling FCS schools. Many people aren't interested in seeing us play Jacksonville State or Furman. We should be blowing out these teams, not be playing close game after close game, which is worrisome considering our talent level.

Outside it's night time, but inside it's LeDay

I have never understood the free throw problems VT seems to have had for years. It could be just selective memory, but I don't remember us being a decent free throw making team in many moons. I know, we aren't the only team with this problem, but when you leave so many points at the stripe, it seems like serious work is needed to correct it. I didn't play basketball as a youth, so my perspective is totally fan-based, but what is the problem? Seems like it should be the easiest shot a player gets all night, notwithstanding the pressure of a tying or winning shot from the line. So, those of you who've played, elucidate me, would you?

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

The guy from Alabama State missed 2 free throws when they were up by 3 with 10 seconds left to play. His misses are not remembered as we missed the 3 ptr to send the game into OT.

I think that a lot of teams struggle from the line. We seem to be consistent in our success rate while other teams seem to be more hot or cold.

The key may be getting the right guys to the line but historically, the shot attempts in the pain have been our bigs and it is good to see everyone attacking the rim this season. Maybe we will have some guys with a little more touch shooting FTs this year.

Just my observation over the years.

Wasn't a perfect showing but got the win. Nobody said the road to 39-1 would be easy

@VTimHokie85