Virginia Tech's Rally Comes Up Short In Loss To 'Canes

It's back-to-back conference road losses for the Hokies after a road trip to the ACC's opposite ends concludes.

[Miami Athletics]

As Mike Young stood with ACC Network sideline reporter Katie George just before the start of the second half, he stared past the cameras with a dispirited look on his face.

The first-year Virginia Tech coach knew there would be growing pains with this year's team — we all did after the departure of Buzz Williams left the Hokies returning the least amount of points, rebounds, shooting and minutes of any team in the Atlantic Coast Conference — but performances like Tuesday's highlight this team's deficiencies.

Tech's two-game road trip turned into a complete dud with a 71-61 road loss to Miami that came after a frustrating and disheartening loss to Boston College on Saturday.

Before Tuesday's win, the Hurricanes had lost four in a row and were coming off a 94-71 shellacking at the hands of North Carolina. The Hurricanes were also without standout guard Chris Lykes, who averages a team-high 15.7 points per game — good enough for eighth in the ACC.

"They just drove us and came off dribble handoffs hot and we were to it and flying," said Young, who remained winless (0-2) against Miami for his career. "Our connectivity was poor, certainly, even without Lykes, they have some kids that can really score the ball. It was just really disappointing and they clearly outplayed us the first [20 minutes]."

Before Tuesday's game, the Hurricanes were 10-0 in games in which they led at the half this season and 0-for-9 when trailing. Coincidentally enough, it was a 24-2 first-half run that gave Miami a 41-19 lead that was too much for the Hokies to overcome.

Despite a major size advantage, Miami only outrebounded Tech 36-31. What they did do, however, was score inside as the Hurricanes held a 36-24 advantage in the paint.

For Young and the Hokies, it was a discouraging sight after the team had taken significant strides defensively in recent weeks. Even in the losses to Boston College and Syracuse, it wasn't defensive miscues that ultimately cost them the game.

"Everybody we play is going to have a height advantage. It's nothing we haven't seen," Young said. "I just thought they were a lot quicker than we were. You give up 44 points [in the first half]. My team's been pretty darn good throughout defensively and you give up 44 points. That's not us."

There were positives from the performance, however, as Tech outscored Miami by nine in the second half and cut the deficit to four with just over one minute to go on a bucket from Landers Nolley. It was his 19th game scoring in double figures this season.

Tyrece Radford also had another big game with a career-high 24 points, which was his first time leading the Hokies in scoring this season. He also added eight rebounds and three steals. Wabissa Bede finished with a team-high eight assists in the loss for Tech.

"I just think we should have played the first half like we finished the second half," Radford said. 'If we would have done that, the game would have been a lot different. But with us not doing that, it kicked us in the butt at the end."

But the Hokies were uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball again, especially at pivotal moments, and it came after a disappointing showing against Boston College on Saturday. Tech finished with game with 12 turnovers — slightly above its 9.7 average coming into the contest — including a couple of key ones in the final minute.

"Well, it couldn't have been much worse than it was on Saturday, with us being like seven assists to 14 turnovers," Young said. "We led the country in assist-turnover ratio for an extended time. I'm not sure what we were tonight, but I know that we weren't good enough. It looks like we were 13 [assists] and 12 [turnovers]. Those aren't our numbers. Our numbers are typically seven turnovers or somewhere around there. So, we were a little better [with ball movement], but we are not quite right there."

Tech (14-7, 5-5 ACC) entered Tuesday ranked No. 50 in the latest NCAA Men's Basketball NET Rankings. With this loss, however, the Hokies almost surely find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to their NCAA Tournament hopes.

And things won't get any easier from here with a ticked-off Florida State (18th KenPom after a 61-56 loss to U.Va on Tuesday) coming to Blacksburg on Saturday evening.

As Young stated, the Hokies are used to being undersized against just about every opponent they face this season. That'll certainly be the case against the Seminoles.

Most fans would say that having Tech — a team that consistently relies on six freshmen in its rotation — sitting at 5-5 at this point after the rebuild Young had to do in the offseason is a good thing. But expectations for this team increased, fair or not, after early wins over Clemson and Michigan State and the three-game ACC winning streak following a lopsided loss in Charlottesville to the Cavaliers. Lately though, it's a reminder of the team's youth and inexperience. And the growing pains associated with that.

Tech nearly overcame that "youth" on Tuesday with Radford leading the charge. Nolley had another solid night, Naheim Alleyne had a solid seven points and Hunter Cantoor hit a pair of 3s. Jalen Cone, meanwhile, saw just 15 minutes and finished 0-for-2.

"He's an amazing person and really an aggressive kid offensively and defensively," Young said of Radford. "I've never been opposed to playing kids with two fouls in the first half, but I am with him a little bit because he is so aggressive. Was able to get him at the half with just the two [fouls]. He's a difference maker because of his energy and his effort plays and he's doing it rather consistently. He was a special player out there."

Unfortunately, it was the veterans for the Hokies that came up short against the Hurricanes. Bede finished with just one point on an 0-for-5 shooting performance, and turned it over 6 times. Isaiah Wilkins was 1-for-8 for three points and P.J. Horne had a pair of 3s, but was 0-for-4 inside the arc.

Tech approaches a crossroads after back-to-back losses and dropping three of their last four,. Whether it's the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, any type of postseason play for a team with so many first-year players is beneficial. In order to get there though and wipe the demoralized look off the faces of Young and Hokies fans all over, this team will have to grow up tremendously over the final weeks of the season.

"We are in a bit of a rut on both ends of the floor, to be honest," Young said. "But we'll get back home and figure it out."

We're about to find out if they can.


Something I've noticed the past 3-4 games is that our passing is bad. We're forcing wild passes every other possession and while we're not turning the ball over we're struggling to cleanly gather the passes which mean longer time to shot or next pass and the defenses have plenty of time to adjust to the ball.

Also for a team of guards we're miserably bad from the free throw line. We're 198th in the country and 69% (nice)

(add if applicable) /s

Didn't see the game last night; against BC it was awful....thoughtless passes, tentative passes, the recipient not coming to the ball. They were out of synch for much of the game. BC was overplaying some of the passing lanes and it seemed our guys just lacked the experience to deal with it.

I'm pleased that this hasn't been the norm, I expected games like the last 2 to happen a lot, and I'm very optimistic for the future of the program under Young. He has a good nucleus of players but there are some obvious gaps as well. I do think their early success has raised some unrealistic expectations for the fan base.

It was more of the same last night, painful to watch at times.

the recipient not coming to the ball

There was one instance towards the end of the game, where I believe a bucket would have cut it to a one possession game (could be wrong), and Nolley backtracked away from Bede as Bede passed it, resulted in an easy pick and layup on the other end, which effectively ended the comeback.

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

It was when we were down 4. A bucket would've cut it to 2 or 1. Nolley backed away from the pass, gave up a steal, then we got called for an intentional. 4 Miami points later, ballgame

I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them!

that's right...I was thinking it was worse than just a layup on the other end, forgot that was when the intentional foul occurred

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

*Sigh* Yeah, that was pretty much the dagger, IMO. You have to put some blame on Nolley there for backing away from the basketball, but Bede was also just not good for most of the night. He finished with eight assists, but it was one of his worst games in terms of taking care of the basketball. When he's playing like that, it's hard to justify having him on the court over Cone (despite Cone's defensive deficiencies).

We had quite a few last night. Bede is doing a great job on the drive and Miami was doing great staying home on the line so Bede would kick it over his shoulder to Horne in the middle on like a 1ft pass the problem was you now have Horne having to make a difficult catch in traffic, Bede, Bede's defender, and Horne's defender all in the way.

(add if applicable) /s

I'm just happy that in year one of CMY, we went into these last few games realistically expecting to win. Even losing to Dayton way back in Maui doesn't seem so bad in light of where they are now.

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My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

Unfortunate the next matchup is against a very talented team. The guys look like they need some home cooking to get their groove back, but that's going to be a tough game.

There's always a lighthouse. There's always a man. There's always a city.

Unfortunately, I think you're right. FSU was going to be a tough matchup for Tech regardless of what happened before the game. Add in the fact that the Hokies are suddenly reeling and the Seminoles are coming off an upset loss to U.Va and that's, well, not ideal.

Our young players have hit that Freshman wall. We need to do what we do best, which is sharp crisp passes, solid defense and let it fly from 3 point land. Side note, we have to make lay-ups and free throws. We missed a bunch last night.

Yup- getting beat off the dribble and forcing us to rotate and leave open shooters, and when that doesn't happen were getting bludgeoned in the post. Sure looks like we've lost some quickness due to fatigue... BBurg- Boston- BBurg-Miami in 4 days. Teams were not getting downhill to the hoop like this earlier.

'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'

We've lost our legs. This is showing badly in their sudden ice cold streak from 3 and their sluggishness on defense. With this many freshmen, that's to be expected.

With better conditioning, more time in the weight room, and a year of experience under their belts, this team should be much better next year and down the line. But yeah, I get the feeling the rest of the way now is going to be a struggle.

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CMY doesn't share your observations. He doesn't buy the fatigue or "freshman wall" stuff. They sure do look different right now, though, for whatever reason.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Honestly, I was impressed with the way they fought back though. Being down 19 at half would be demoralizing for alot of teams, and missing layups and free throws on top of that would be enough to count most teams out early. They never gave up and that's a great quality to have.

But yes, alot of the passes were either very telegraphed or sloppy in general. Bede just seemed very off last night.

Was it just my eyes, or did that arena seem super dark?

Warning- Filter lost.

"Look at this... This is just spectacular.... These people are losing their minds"

It was very dark in there. I saw where they did a moment of silence for Kobe pregame, I was wondering if some of the lights did not boot back up after that? or is it always that dark?

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

Did they keep it dark so that they could project their logo on the floor at every time out? I originally thought the lights were low so that the logo would show pre-game, but when they turned off the logo spots, it didn't get any brighter. Had to turn up the contrast on my TV it was so dark.

no wonder we couldn't make a layup they couldn't see anything.

Maybe they have to sell a certain number of tickets before they can afford to turn the lights on.

Not gonna lie, I kind of thought that might be a bullshit home court advantage thing at first too. Like how tf are our guys supposed to hit anything when they cant see the goddamn rim?

Warning- Filter lost.

"Look at this... This is just spectacular.... These people are losing their minds"

Calling a foul before Radford even touched the traveling Cane down the stretch didn't help matters even though he missed the free throw and we turned it over on the ensuing possession.

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

I can't prove it for sure, but I think teams are starting to guard us further out to the the 3 -pt line to take away the passes around the arc and challenge the shots. Teams don't need to have players help inside on a drive, they have found it better to stay out on the 3 pt to guard against an easy 3 on the kick out pass. Without much of a scoring presence inside or a guys who can beat their overextended defender off the dribble, I would expect the pressure to continue.

Whatever. It was one bad year.

Seasonal Brew means High ABV for football season and standard the rest of the year.

This is exactly right. Nolley and Radford are the only two guys on the team that can finish at the rim. And neither of them are elite at that skill. Nolley isn't the fastest player off the dribble and Radford gets his shot blocked frequently just because of size. Teams are extending the defense out further and jumping the perimeter passes. They are basically daring us to drive the ball. A good adjustment to this would be more Princeton back-door cuts.

They also know Bede will dribble under the basket for an open layup and then pass it out. OR get fouled and miss his free throws.

Was there a particular reason Cone only played 15 mins last night? He was our second leading scorer in ACC play going into the game.

This is something I'm curious to watch moving forward. I understand Cone's lack of size was a concern before, but he's proven that he can overcome that in ACC play. Not only has he been an effective scorer (in a big way), but he's taken tremendous strides on the defensive end. And as I said earlier, when Bede is turning the ball over and such a liability on the offensive end like that, I see no reason that Cone shouldn't have seen more minutes.

I love Bede, but he really isn't the PG we need. I don't think we need a lights out shooter running the point, but we need someone who can break their defender down and beat them off the dribble. We need someone who isn't afraid to finish at the basket. We need someone who can lead the team when everything seems to be falling apart. I love Bede, but he isn't those things.

Is coronavirus over yet?

Buzz Williams would always talk about how relaxed he would get when "five" had the ball in his hands. Maybe he was speaking on other players too?

Hokie Club member since 2017

Not on twitter... that was all mysterious/coded birthday wishes "happy 54th birthday to my fav Ahmed Hill" and shit like "A lion sleeps but never rests"... one of the top 3 worst sports twitters... but I digress. LOL

Great article!

As Young stated, the Hokies are used to being undersized against just about every opponent they face this season. That'll certainly be the case against the Seminoles.

Hokie Club member since 2017

Bede does seem to have regressed the past couple of games. Last night especially he seemed uncharacteristically lazy with his passes (although that's a team wide problem as well). More than once different players would pass to a spot anticipating someone being there but without anticipating that Miami might have been over-pursuing (which they were) to jump passing lanes and don't get me started on guys picking up their dribble before they know what they're doing with the ball. Radford has been a bright spot and looks to be coming into his own. I think he's a guy the offense needs to flow through. If he can become a legitimate threat to score it should free up Nolley to do what he does. Cone's lack of playing time is puzzling considering how well he's played recently, but I trust CMY knows what lineup he wants on the floor and it didn't include much of Cone last night. Early in the year we were playing loose, with house money, and zero expectations. Now I think we've tightened up a bit.

Bede's turnovers last night were rough, but I don't think he's regressed. BC and Miami were both aggressively jumping into passing lanes, and we didn't find a consistent way to punish it (backdoor cuts are a classic response). Our entire team is turning it over more in the past two games, so I see Bede's six last night as a symptom of our team's overall struggles. Against BC, similar turnover struggles were more evenly spread (i.e. four by Nolley, three by Cone).

Bede has limitations on offense, but aside from last night's six TOs he's been pretty consistent. And occasionally he's come up HUGE, like he did with that 3 against UNC just three games ago.

Bede can only do as well as the guys around him and the entire team has come out flat the past couple games. You'll see one guy busting ass on the floor and a few others seemingly standing around waiting for something to happen.

Bede seems to be hampered on the fast break.

One play I remember had a defender fade towards Nolley, knowing that's where the ball was going due to the lack of Bede's scoring threat.

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

Yeah...they had Miller on Bede a few times in set D too....and we still couldn't score on that because miller could give him 40 feet

(add if applicable) /s