Virginia Tech was at a tipping point before today’s game. After last Saturday’s loss in Louisville, the Hokies had a week off to gather themselves for a stretch run including today’s loss to FSU and Monday’s game against No. 15 UNC. Tech got off to a solid start and trailed the Seminoles at halftime, 41-38. Justin Robinson opened up the final 20 minutes with an impressive layup and the Hokies had momentum, down by just one with Cassell growing louder each second.
That momentum died within seconds. Kerry Blackshear, whose foul troubles have been well documented, picked up his third foul sending him to the bench. Florida State already had a distinct height advantage on the low block given Chris Koumadje’s 7’4” frame. Without Blackshear, the Hokies’ defense faltered and the offense was nowhere near as efficient. His importance to the team is paramount.
RE: Blackshear - the #Hokies have a + 38.2 Net Rating with him on the floor. The only other player that makes that big a difference is Nick Fullard, who has a -105.5 Net Rating. Just shows how crucial KJ is to the #Hokies.— Jawhar Ali (@soundslikejafar) January 20, 2018
Florida State started off the game hot from the perimeter, knocking down 5 of their first 6 outside attempts. The Hokies’ perimeter defense has been problematic all season and it was an issue again this afternoon. Coming into this game shooting 36 percent from three, the ‘Noles shot 45 percent from downtown. When the Hokies needed a stop, FSU seemingly responded every time with a clutch three-pointer.
Virginia Tech got a boost with Justin Robinson’s game. The junior point guard had 26 points, 6 assists, and went 4-of-7 from three. Many of those points came in garbage time however, as FSU was content with letting the Hokies settle for two points instead of three. Without Blackshear, Chris Clarke was forced into action as the substitute center. While he did not have a great day defensively, his athleticism allowed him to get to the rim against Koumadje. Clarke finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds before fouling out late.
The Hokies’ three point shooting has not been up to par lately, but today their free throw shooting really hurt. At one point, Tech was 4-of-11 from the charity stripe and trailed by 7. You do the math. They were able to make all their free throws the rest of the way, but it was too little too late.
MJ Walker, one of the Hokies’ primary targets in the last recruiting cycle, had a terrific game for FSU. The five star freshman scored a career high 24 points and went 4-of-7 from three. He outplayed fellow five star (per ESPN) Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who had 5 points and went 1-of-8 from three.
The Hokies have another must-win game coming up on Monday, as they host No. 15 UNC.