I will make it short and simple for the Virginia Tech fans who tuned into the NFC Championship game instead of watching your Hokies take on the Fighting Irish. You didn't miss much. It was the same story for the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-9) when they traveled to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-7), they were simply outmatched. With a Tech starting lineup that didn't feature three of their top players (Ben Emelogu due to injury, Cadarian Raines and Jarrell Eddie due to coach's decision) it was clear from the tip they simply didn't have the firepower to take down the Fighting Irish. The Hokies competed most of the evening but dropped their fourth straight ACC contest, 70-63; drawing as close as 53-51 before fading late.
Give credit to the banged up Tech squad who actually shot a higher percentage and out-rebounded ACC newcomers, Notre Dame. Their downfall was ball security. The Hokies turned the ball over 17 times in the game. They've only matched that total twice this season (27 vs VCU's Havoc and 17 vs Michigan State in the Coach's Classic). Many of Tech's turnovers belonged to Joey Van Zegeren who despite blocking six shots, equaled that in turnovers causing James Johnson to limit his minutes to just 16.
Bright spots for the Hokies were point guard Devin Wilson and the redshirt senior Raines who chimed in with their respective career high's of 20 points each. Those who follow the program closely will love to know that Devin Wilson's free throw struggles seemed to be put on hold for the night as he made 5-7 from the stripe. Virginia Tech worked inside out more frequently, which was a must for them without Emelogu and Smith not 100% and they were pretty effective in doing so. Coming off the bench Raines was a dominant force on the offensive end, who repeatedly made efficient moves in the post.
Raines dominance down low leads one to question why exactly he's been sitting on the bench so much this season, but that's a study in itself. Notre Dame's most effective player so far this season Pat Connaughton posted an impressive stat line of 21 points and 8 rebounds and he led the team with 38 minutes played. Notre Dame didn't shoot particularly well (41%) but when you win the turnover game by 7 seldom will you find yourself on the losing end of a game. Virginia Tech will be welcomed home Wednesday by the students who have just returned from break who are hoping to watch their Hokies break a 4 game losing streak and upset the (12-4) Wake Forest Deamon Deacons. Notre Dame will travel to the sunshine state and take on a Florida State team that is fresh off a loss to UVA.