Virginia Tech was off to a woeful start to conference play, dropping their first two games in an ugly fashion. They were able to get past those two performances today with a 81-67 win over Pittsburgh. The Panthers had undergone major roster turnover this offseason, and started 5 freshmen in the lineup. And for the majority of the game, those freshmen kept the struggling Hokies on their heels, staying within striking distance for much of the afternoon.
Forward Kerry Blackshear carried the Hokies’ offense against Pittsburgh, ending the game with a career-high 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting. The Panthers had no match for him once he posted up on the low block or in the pick-and-roll. Blackshear did not get into foul trouble either, which is good news for Hokie fans.
The Hokies’ shooting troubles have been extensively documented over the last few games, and there was no improvement in that area today. Virginia Tech only made 4-of-23 of their threes, and have only shot 24.5 percent from behind the arc over the last four games. For a team that has very good shooters, this slump needs to end soon.
It was not all bad on offense for Virginia Tech, however. They outscored Pittsburgh in the paint 50-18, had 16 fast break points, and registered 22 points off turnovers. The Hokies only turned it over 6 times, their lowest figure since playing Maryland Eastern-Shore. Justin Robinson was a big reason why, as he dropped 10 dimes compared to only 2 giveaways.
Pittsburgh shot the ball well from the outside, as perimeter defense continues to be a huge concern for this team. Conference opponents have shot 44 percent from three against the Hokies. Given the three point efficiency difference between Virginia Tech and their opponents, it will be tough to win ball games.
Pittsburgh was not a flashy opponent, but it was one the Hokies needed to beat. It was not pretty, but hopefully this sparks a little bit of confidence that the team can build off of.
The Hokies travel to Wake Forest on Wednesday, looking to even up their conference record at 2-2.