The Hokies, coming off two strong performances against weak defenses, hit a brick wall against the Saint Louis Billikens. Virginia Tech was mediocre with their shooting, specifically from the free throw line, where they shot a paltry 23-of-36 (63.8%). If that was the only problem the Hokies had tonight, they might have been okay. Instead, there were a whole laundry list of issues. Heck, I’ll just try to list everything that went wrong tonight:
- Probably the worst disparity was in the paint. The Hokies were dominated inside, allowing over 45 points from inside the paint for SLU. In addition, Virginia Tech lost the rebounding battle 43-31, with many of those rebounds coming late off of missed free throws. This was a major problem last year, and against a physical team in Saint Louis, those problems made an untimely reappearance. Simply put, the Hokies were soft in the paint tonight. That cannot happen.
- One of the reasons the Hokies were able to overcome those issues last season was due to their insane three-point shooting. Tonight, the Hokies, aside from Ahmed (who went 5-of-9), looked like they put a lid on the rim. As a team, Virginia Tech was just 6-of-19 from beyond the arc. Bibbs, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Bede, and Justin Robinson combined to go 1-of-10 from three.
- The Hokies got little contribution from their marquee players. Nickeil had a game to forget, Chris Clarke did not make his first field goal until well into the second half, and Wabissa Bede finished with a goose egg in the scoring column. It is difficult to win games with that production from key players that are relied on the make plays.
- Foul trouble was an issue, specifically for Kerry Blackshear. In his freshman season, Blackshear struggled staying out of foul trouble, but since the Hokies had Zach LeDay, the problem was overlooked. However, Blackshear fouled out of tonight’s game without playing significant minutes. Teams will start attacking Blackshear, and since he projects to be the Hokies’ most important big, Virginia Tech will heavily suffer if he commits unnecessary fouls.
Devin Wilson, Justin Robinson, and Nickel Alexander-Walker all had to be pulled out of the game at one point or another due to foul trouble as well.
- Referees were garbage, but not the reason the Hokies lost.
- The Hokies also did not share the ball like they usually do. They finished the game with just 9 assists on 21 made field goals, by far their season low. Too much hero ball and poor finishing at the rim compounded the problem.
The good news is that Justin Robinson still has an ACL. After a rough landing which left him writhing in pain, it appeared the junior’s season was over before it even started. However, Robinson limped back into the game just minutes later, setting a world record for fastest recovery from a devastating knee injury.
It is a long season, and this is just one game, but the Hokies have a tough schedule up ahead and have many improvements to make if they want to make back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
The Hokies will play the loser of Washington vs. Providence tomorrow at 5 PM on ESPN2.
Just bad all around.