Coming into Saturday's game against Florida State, things looked dicey for Virginia Tech senior forward Jeff Allen. He was nursing an injured groin and was matched up against an NBA prospect in FSU's Chris Singleton.
Early in the game it looked like Singleton would single-handedly take down the Hokies, but it was Allen who led his team to a crucial conference win with one of the best games of his career. Allen finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 10-for-12 at the free throw line. It was his most points since he had 25 against Maryland last season.
Allen had game-high 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season and his third in a row. He also helped take Singleton out of the game for the last part of the first half, allowing the Hokies to take a 29-19 lead into the break.
Virginia Tech's pressure defense and halfcourt trap gave the Seminoles trouble throughout. It led to 19 Seminole turnovers, 12 of which came in the first half. The Hokies' trap and 2-3 zone kept the ball out of Singleton's hands for most of the first half and forced the Noles to try and shoot them out of the zone.
However, Florida State shot just 18.2 percent from behind the arc in the first half and finished the game 7-for-24 from three (29.2 percent).
The Hokies struggled as well from behind the arc, making just one of eight 3-point attempts. It's overall shooting troubles led to an ugly first half, but it fared much better from the field in the second half. The Hokies also got to the free throw line and converted, making 34 of their 37 attempts (91.9 percent).
The Hokies faced a team that was much bigger than they were and used their trap and zone to mitigate it. The result was a big rebounding edge for Florida State, especially on the offensive boards, but this game showed the Hokies' trap could be the great equalizer in conference play.
Tech will face teams that are better offensively than the Seminoles throughout the year and eventually teams will take advantage of its zone and make threes. But if the Hokies are able to pressure and force turnovers as effectively as they did today, they're going to be in a lot of games against teams that should probably beat them.
Allen's play is the biggest positive that we can take away from Saturday's game. His put together a good streak of games, maybe the best since he was a freshman. Tech's young backcourt players, Erick Green and Tyrone Garland, also continue to improve each game.
Tech is now 1-1 in conference play and will get a big test on the road Thursday against North Carolina. The Tar Heels aren't as good as most people though they would be at this point in the season and struggled on the road against UVa Saturday. However, their frontcourt depth will be tough to deal with.
The Tar Heels' big men are athletic, which could cause foul trouble for Allen and Victor Davila. If that happens, the Hokies will be in trouble.