To be honest, I'm really not even that upset about Virginia Tech's loss to Purdue Wednesday that handed the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to the Big Ten for the second consecutive year.
Yes, there are a lot of things that need to be addressed for this to become a contender in the ACC, but in the grand scheme of things are are some positives that can be taken away from this loss. Because on a night when their star player looked absolutely horrible, the Hokies took a Top 25 team to overtime.
Davila Steps Up
We'll deal with the positives first because the negatives will take more space. First and foremost, the play of Victor Davila is what kept the Hokies in this game. After getting used and abused by JaJuan Johnson through the first two media timeouts, he held the Purdue big man in check for a good portion of the game.
Davila did what I thought none of our guys could do, which was guard Johnson one-on-one. Johnson was forced to post up away from the basket and couldn't get past Davila, who forced him to take difficult jumpers. It wasn't until Davila committed a stupid foul to put himself out of the game that Johnson was able to be a dominant force again.
The Hokies' perimeter defense gave Davila a lot of help as well, denying entry passes to post and not allowing the Purdue guards to drive. This allowed Davila to stay on Johnson and not leaving him to help on a driving guard. Most importantly for Davila was the confidence with which he played on the offensive end. He went up strong to the basket when he got the ball in the paint and finished with 12 points.
Hopefully his performance against Johnson and Purdue will be the catalyst that leads to Davila having a breakout season. We're so thin underneath that we need him to have a big year.
Two more players with big games in my mind were Terrell Bell and Erick Green. Bell only had five points, but made his presence felt on the defensive end and on the boards. Basically, Bell did exactly what this team needs him to do. He also had three hard-fought offensive rebounds early in the game. Unfortunately, those were his only three offensive rebounds of the game.
Even though Green only made two shots in the game, they were both big. His three with 14:52 left in the game gave the Hokies their first lead of the game and his bucket and free throw early in overtime also gave them a one-point lead. He also had an assist in the first half and helped provide the spark off the bench that the Hokies have been missing.
Baffling Backcourt Play
What was missing for the Hokies against Purdue was competent half-court offense and contribution from their guards. Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson combined for 14 points, five of which came from the line. Hudson's struggles continued. He just doesn't look right out there and as Kyle Tucker said during the game, he could still have lingering effects from the tendinitis he suffered earlier. Greenberg said after the game he's still not at the right conditioning level because of it.
He and Delaney also combined for eight turnovers and three assists with many of the turnovers coming in transition. Delaney had arguably the worst game of his Virginia Tech career, finishing 2-for-18 from the floor with five points.
More importantly, the Hokies looked absolutely lost in their halfcourt offense and it was magnified on their last offensive set of the game. The ball went to Delaney who dribble to the near side of the court and was pressured by Purdue's man defense like he had been the whole game.
The rest of the team just sat around and watched as Delaney got in trouble, stumbled and turned the ball over to basically end the game. It was frustrating to see absolutely no movement from the guys without the ball, who seemed to give in to the idea that either Delaney was going to make a miracle play or we were going to lose the game.
Another Lost Opportunity
There is still a lot of season left, but all of these non-conference losses are making the Hokies' margin for error in ACC play shrink faster and faster. Tech is not going to face another non-conference foe even close to the level of Purdue, UNLV and Kansas State. And in ACC play, it will only see Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and NC State once.
This is a down year for the ACC and the Hokies are doing themselves no favors by losing these non-conference games. The jokes about Virginia Tech being on the bubble again are going to come fast and furious from those who look at this program from the outside. But you can't really blame them because this year is playing out just like previous years, at least in the early going.
Hammer and Rails has the Purdue point of view on the game.