Virginia 61, Virginia Tech 54: Inexcusable Loss has Hokies Back on Bubble

At this point we should be used to what happened to Virginia Tech's basketball team Saturday at Virginia. Once again while battling for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Hokies laid an egg on the road to put their hopes for an at-large bid in question.

This time it came to a UVa team missing its best post player, allowing the Wahoos to sweep the season series. Tech managed just 54 points in the game, tying its season low. The other time this year the Hokies scored just 54 points? Their previous game with UVa, a 57-54 loss in Blacksburg on Dec. 5.

The loss dropped the Hokies to 17-8 and 7-5 in ACC play. It also gave the Hokies their third loss of the season to a team currently ranked No. 150 or worse in the RPI. Couple that with zero wins against teams in the RPI Top 50 and the Hokies suddenly find themselves with work to do to ensure a spot in this year's tournament.

The good thing for the Hokies is that Saturday's loss is hardly the end to their tournament hopes. The bubble is extremely weak this year and while Tech is doing itself no favors, neither are a lot of teams vying for the last remaining at-large bids.

The Hokies currently sit at No. 66 in the RPI and it will be interesting to see just how much they fall after a win against No. 89 Maryland and a loss to No. 150 Virginia. The good news for the Hokies is their RPI will improve just by playing Duke next week in Blacksburg. Win that game and Tech gives itself a lot of wiggling room on the bubble.

Lose that game and all of a sudden games against No. 43 Boston College and No. 73 Clemson become must-wins.

Of course, this wouldn't matter as much if the Hokies had just taken care of business against the Wahoos. Instead, they struggled to defend the perimeter and UVa took advantage by knocking down 11 three-point shots. They were also out-rebounded Saturday against a UVa team that was sans Mike Scott.

Jeff Allen had twice as many boards as the next closest individual in the game, but UVa was better at crashing the glass as a team. Allen's 15 rebounds accounted for 50 percent of the Hokies' total while Assane Sene, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell all had seven rebounds for the Hoos.

Tech was also held off the offensive glass, pulling in just 18.2 percent of available offensive rebounds. That's been a problem for the Hokies in their losses.

And while Tech's perimeter defense struggled, UVa's was excellent against Malcolm Delaney and Erick Green. The Hoos kept the Tech guards from driving and getting to the line as the Hokies attempted just seven free throws in the game. Amazingly, Tech attempted just 11 free throws in the two games combined against the Wahoos. This coming after the Hokies attempted 39 free throws against Georgia Tech and 32 against Maryland.

The Hokies also struggled behind the arc, going 7-for-22. After digging themselves a 15-point hole, Tech caught fire from three, as Delaney buried a pair of them to help cut UVa's lead to three. Unfortunately, those two quick threes might have led to Tech's demise down the stretch.

The long-range makes may have made Tech over confident from three as they bombed away early in the shot clock later in the game instead of looking for higher-percentage shots. In the end, the shots stopped falling for the Hokies and they were unable to take advantage of missed free throws and turnovers by UVa.

Not looking for easier shots late was part of overall poor ball movement by the Hokies Saturday. Tech had just seven assists on 21 made field goals (33.3 percent) after assisting on 35 of 61 baskets (57.4 percent) against Georgia Tech and Maryland.

That's been a trend in the Hokies' losses. In five ACC defeats, Tech has assisted on 36.8 percent of made field goals. Compare that to 47.5 percent in all ACC games and 52.7 percent overall. Tech simply cannot settle for low-percentage shots if they want to win games down the stretch and make the tournament.

Give credit to UVa for making shots and playing tough on the boards and on perimeter defense by denying entry passes, keeping Delaney and Green from driving and holding the Hokies to a low three-point percentage. But the Hokies helped them out by reverting to some of their bad habits that have cost them all season.

This was a game you can't lose if you want to make the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, it's a game were used to seeing the Hokies lose in the season's final month in recent years. Inconsistency and poor road play sent Virginia Tech to the NIT the last three seasons. If they're not careful, this year will make it four.

Streaking the Lawn has the UVa point of view of the game.

Next on Virginia Tech's basketball schedule: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Wake Forest on ESPN2.

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