The Hokies can exhale after narrowly coming away with a 93-91 win against Wake Forest. The game was a shootout from start to finish. Wake Forest was on fire from three-point range, but the Hokies were able to overcome the Demon Deacons’ superb shooting by forcing turnovers at critical times.
1. With the win, the Hokies start 3-1 in conference play. That’s the best since 2011, when they also started 3-1 in the ACC. The Hokies finished 22-12 in 2011, which is possible, but at this point it would be a reach to say that they could match that record in 2016. But who knows?
2. Although the Hokies emerged victorious, Buzz is probably furious about the team’s defensive performance (or lack thereof). Giving up 91 points in your house is a recipe for disaster. I wouldn’t say the Hokies are lucky they scored 93, but they aren’t an offensive juggernaut at the moment. They allowed open outside looks at the expense of not letting Devin Thomas go off, but it almost cost them. Virginia Tech won’t be able to do that against better teams.
Buzz postgame on the defense:
.@TeamCoachBuzz on what went well and what needs to improve after tonight's win over WF: pic.twitter.com/SfqULSsY1J— VT Men's Basketball (@VT_MBBall) January 14, 2016
3. In the theme of poor defense, it feels like the Hokies almost want their opponents to kill them from downtown. Against UVA, London Perrantes had a field day from deep. Duke scored 7 three pointers to blow the Hokies out at the beginning of Saturday’s contest. Tonight, Wake Forest shot 54.2% on three-pointers. It’s a troubling trend in a conference with players that will make you pay from deep.
4. For a guy shooting over 50% from deep this year, Justin Bibbs did a phenomenal job getting to the rack to score. Wake Forest clearly scouted and keyed in on him, and he responded by driving by closeouts, hitting a variety of runners, scoop layups, and midrange jumpers. But he still hurt Wake Forest with the three ball, shooting 3-7 from deep including a clutch one with the shot clock winding down. Kudos to Bibbs for carrying the Hokies to a tune of a career-high 32 points, every single one of which was needed to win.
5. Bibbs’ counterpart from beyond the arc, Zach LeDay (only half-joking) is making coaches erase their scouting reports across the ACC. After knocking down three 3's against UVA, he went off again, draining four this time around. It’s amazing to think a guy who only shot 17 three-pointers could go 4-4, especially with his slightly awkward release. But hey, confidence is everything, right?
6. Both the Hokies and the Demon Deacons had been very good in close games this season coming into this contest. In fact, this was Wake Forest's first loss of the season by less than 6 points. Virginia Tech struggled with late game execution last season, but they have made obvious strides in that area this year. There were no backbreaking turnovers down the stretch or poor possessions from Buzz’s side. Aside from a couple of miraculous threes from Wake Forest and a bad foul by Bibbs, they executed well.
7. Free throws were the deciding factor in my opinion. The Hokies have been pitiful from the line, but shot 83% tonight. While Kerry Blackshear, LeDay, and Justin Robinson were outstanding (especially in the clutch), the Demon Deacons shot just 67% on their 18 opportunities, and missed the first on a set of three that had the potential to tie the game up. It’s been something we, and I’m sure Buzz, has been harping on the last few weeks and we saw the difference it could make tonight.
8. Although Wake Forest was able to shoot 59%, the Hokies were able to force 16 turnovers. There were so many opportunities for the Hokies to get out and run with the Demon Deacons scrambling to get back on defense. For this team to have success, they need an identity. I think they found one with their propensity to create turnovers and points off those turnovers.
9. Satchel Pierce has largely been absent from Buzz’s big man rotation. But he got to play more tonight, and held his own. He chipped in with 6 points, but made an impact on the glass, notching 4 offensive rebounds. His role on the team is an energy player, and tonight probably gives Buzz a little more confidence to put him out there. His size will be needed to match up with talented bigs in the ACC.
10. Even though the Hokies put up 93, they missed a bunch of gimmies. Bibbs missed a dunk in transition, Allen missed a layup, Robinson blew one at the rim as well, and Satchel Pierce missed an easy putback opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many lapses in one game. Finish your layups, boys!
A good win, with a lot of things to improve upon. Georgia Tech is next on the schedule, who we can thank for also beating the Wahoos on their home floor.