The Hokies, coming off a lackluster performance against Miami where they lacked the necessary effort to compete, looked like a different team tonight. It was a necessary great performance as well, upping Tech’s conference record to 6-5 and pushing their overall record to 17-7 on the year. NC State has beaten both Duke and UNC this year, so tonight’s win is a significant addition to the Hokies’ tournament resume.
Midway through the first half, the score was knotted at 15-15. Virginia Tech then took advantage of a porous Wolfpack defense to hang 32 more points in the half on 64.5 percent shooting, despite going just 1-of-7 from three. The Hokies were able to get to the rim at will, and it eventually wore out NC State. For the most part, Tech did not even try to test the Wolfpack perimeter defense, opting to go to the rim instead. This resulted in foul trouble for the visitors, as 7-footer Omer Yurtseven had to go to the bench early after racking up 8 quick early points in addition to 2 fouls. NC State’s Torin Dorn and Abdul-Malik Abu each followed suit, as both players finished the game with 4 fouls.
The offense was fantastic, but so was the defense. They forced 15 turnovers, many of them coming as a result of lightning quick doubles in the post. Virginia Tech was able to suffocate NC State’s offense for the most part, holding them to just 43.5 percent shooting for the game.
Point guard Justin Robinson, who has come on strong over the last month, took over today’s game. He sits at the top of the leadership structure of this team and showed why. The Wolfpack could not stay in front of him, especially in the second half. He had a nice two-hand jam to energize the crowd and help seize back momentum for the Hokies as the Wolfpack began their comeback. In addition, he hit a straightaway triple to push Virginia Tech’s lead back to double-digits. He finished with a career high 31 points and added in a team-high 4 assist for good measure. Robinson was a instrumental part in the Hokies’ astounding 56 points in the paint, 23 points off turnovers and 13 fast break points.
Early in the second half, Virginia Tech was able to push the lead to 18 and seemed in total control of the game. However, NC State kept chipping away on the scoreboard and found themselves down 61-55. Missed free throws and silly turnovers were a huge problem. The Hokies went 16-of-29 from the free throw line, for a horrendous 55 percent. That will not cut it against better teams and is something that needs drastic improvement.
Given today’s results, the Hokies are in fifth place in the ACC standings. They have a huge game coming up on Saturday, as they travel to Charlottesville to play the best team in the country, who happens to be their in-state rivals No. 2 Virginia (who should be No. 1 given that Villanova lost to St. Johns). Virginia gave the Hokies the business in the first go-around in Blacksburg and it would be a huge upset if Tech miraculously can pull this off.