It was Hokies senior night as Tech finished another season of home basketball. Clemson traveled to Blacksburg in a perfect bookend from the start of the season. Back in the fall VT opened the year with a trip to face the Tigers in South Carolina, not knowing how this young team would look or fare under new head coach Mike Young.
That night was a breakout moment for Landers Nolley, while Wednesday was a return to the collective effort that has seen Virginia Tech rack up 16 wins this season. A few key takeaways from the big midweek ACC win.
1 - Closing out a game (and home stand) for Cassell Coliseum
For the first half of the season, even into the start of the ACC schedule, the Hokies were competitive and able to pull out victories that many would have doubted before the year began. Then the ACC slate began to wear Tech down, either falling out of games early on and fading late in the second half. On multiple occasions when a win seemed possible, even likely, it would slip away. Including that tough home overtime loss to Boston College.
Wednesday wasn’t the case. The team looked up for the match, it being their last in from the Hokie faithful at Cassell Coliseum - unless an unlikely NIT home match falls their way. The crowd went into the year knowing that this team would take a step back from the heights of Buzz Williams’ years and lose some close games. But they remained behind the team and continually made Cassell a loud environment. Against Clemson the team rallied for a big win on senior night, to reward the fans, and remind everyone of the promise ahead.
2 - Get hyped for three more seasons of Tyrece Radford
After opening night the hype was almost completely around Landers Nolley, and it was deserved. Even through the first half of the year, he was the star and the team went based on how his night went on most occasions. But along the way Tyrece Radford has stepped up to that level and probably deserves the award for most surprising ACC player this year.
On Wednesday Radford racked up 16 points, the 13th time he has scored in double figures this year. He pulled in six rebounds and has averaged 6.3 over the course of the season. While he lacks a three-point shot, he has surpassed expectations from the floor hitting 61.5% of his shots during his freshman year. But it’s his hustle, attacking the basket and defending, that truly stands out. He has continued to improve as the season went on, even in the face of ACC competition. Please give us three more years of the evolution of Tyrece Radford.
3 - The hot and cold of P.J. Horne
In the past I’ve called for Horne to be taking out of the starting lineup. And I’ve also given him praise when he had his big game against Pittsburgh. As one of the two upperclassmen leaders of this team his consistency is what the Hokies need the most next season (his last). On Wednesday he delivered, with 17 points to lead the team and set the tone against Clemson. Exactly which P.J. Horne we will get each night remains a mystery.
Horne scored in double digits three times in ACC play - the Hokies won all three. He also had seven conference games where he scored fewer than five points. Even with typically 25-35 minutes of game time. Against Louisville, 1 for 7 from deep. Against Clemson, 4 for 7 behind the line. P.J. can be a dangerous player for opponents to guard given his size and ability to hit threes. But with two new recruits coming in next year and the maturation of this freshman class, he will need to find that consistency if he hopes to remain a starter on most nights.
The Hokies close out the regular season as they travel to take on Notre Dame on Saturday at 2 pm ET.