Although the Virginia Tech Hokies beat No. 5 Duke on Monday to get their tenth conference win of the season, they still had plenty of incentives to beat Miami. With a win, the Hokies would have a very good chance at securing a double bye in next week’s ACC tournament, as well as win 11 ACC games for the first time in school history. In the first half, Tech certainly played with the energy they had shown in the last month, holding the Hurricanes to 39.3 percent shooting and held a 39-32 lead going into the break. The Hokies were 18-1 with a halftime lead this season and looked like they had control of the game.
However, Miami came out firing in the second half with a 13-3 spurt to begin the final 20 minutes of the regular season. They converted on their first five attempts and the Hokies turned the ball over. From there, Virginia Tech had to play from behind against a stingy Miami defense. The Hurricanes were able to build a nine-point advantage with 8:24 left, and the Hokies found themselves in a similar position they were in against Duke.
While the Hokies found themselves down, it is not as if they were not provided ample opportunities to make Miami pay. Justin Robinson may have led all scorers with 18 points, but his six turnovers on the day were costly. Some of them were as a result of Miami’s scheme to trap the pick-and-roll, but others were just plain careless in crucial situations. The Hurricanes converted the Hokies’ 15 giveaways into 18 points off turnovers. It was a problem earlier in the season, and it made a tough reappearance in a critical game.
Miami’s three-point offense also heated up in the second half. DJ Vasiljevic, the Hurricanes’ three-point specialist, finished with a team high 16 points and went 4-of-6 from three. Many of those makes were a result of bad defense, but also great shooting. As a team, the ‘Canes shot 6-of-9 from downtown in the second half, which is almost assuredly an efficient way to lose a basketball game.
Despite all this, the Hokies regained a 68-66 edge with 1:13 left off of two Chris Clarke free throws, who was once again a go-to player for Tech down the stretch. Lonnie Walker IV countered with an impressive fadeaway baseline jumper to tie it up, giving Virginia Tech another opportunity to take the lead. The Hokies tried to go two-for-one with a Kerry Blackshear three that missed, but Ahmed Hill was to get the offensive board to give Tech one more shot at it. Bibbs found his way into the paint, but came up short on a contested layup.
And in the most anti-climatic way possible, Chris Lykes was fouled with three seconds left on a drive to the basket where two Hokies were waiting for him. He made the fatal, first free throw and Chris Clarke’s last-ditch half court heave was off the mark.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to the No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament. It is a tough draw, since the Hokies will have to face Notre Dame (with both Colson and Farrell back), Florida State (who has given the Hokies a ton of problems in the last two years), or Boston College. I’ll let you decide who to root for.