There are Two Halves of a Men’s Basketball Game
If the Hokies were looking for a last relatively easy game against a non-conference opponent, they certainly didn’t get that gift in the first half. Grambling State came to Blacksburg with a serious intent to play hard and upset the Hokies in their own house.
The first 2/3rds of the first half, it looked very much like the Tigers were going to hand the Hokies a serious scare in that general direction. Grambling led by 8, 21 to 13, at the halfway point of the first period, and had led since the 17:29 mark. The Hokies weren’t managing to sink much. They had serious ball control problems and to cap it off Grambling was converting the exchanges. It got so bad that at the 9:34 mark, Tech was actually down 23-13 and finding nothing in the positive momentum column. The Tigers weren’t running away but they were building a very steadily widening gap.
Sean Pedulla hit a 3-pointer some 20 seconds later, and then hit two free throws, followed by Hunter Cattoor draining a three, without the Tigers scoring anything. Suddenly the Hokies were breathing again and had narrowed the gap to a single bucket at the 5:34 mark. Lynn Kidd hit a layup for that two points and then grabbed another score from the paint to put the Hokies in the lead 25-23 (he also made the free throw on the old fashioned 3-point play) and put some breathing room on the board. After that, Virginia Tech never lost the lead.
After some exchanges the Hokies only allowed the Tigers one additional 2-point bucket, while steadily increasing the gap to 9-points (34-25) as the buzzer sounded. It wasn’t an insurmountable lead, but it certainly was encouraging since Tech had finally successfully shut down the Grambling State scoring.
The Second Half was a Completely Different Show
The Hokies came out of the locker room and having found something of a formula stood on the accelerator of the tractor. No, it wasn’t a “runaway”. It was the Hokies scoring, and then winning the exchanges by preventing the Tigers from answering in return. Whenever Grambling State would get something started, the Hokies would answer back with a bit more.
Bad Habits are Still Worrisome
Some of the more unusual features of the game were evident from the play, but really noticeable in the stats. The Hokies were having serious issues controlling the ball. Ball handling has been a recurring squawk for Hokie men’s basketball fans. Tech coughed up the ball 13 times in the game, and of their 31 rebounds only 7 were offensive. Tech is still putting up threes, and not setting to have someone follow up for a chance at putting the ball back.
As the level of competition rises, putting up low percentage shots with the attitude that it’s just going to go in is going to be disaster in games that will depend on winning exchanges. Tech was only 11 of 27 from three, and that’s just not a good enough percentage to not offer a solid effort at grabbing the offensive board for a putback.
The Hokies need to take advantage of their newfound size inside. In addition, the ball handling just has to get better and crisper. Even worse, though is that the Hokies were only 11 of 20 from the charity stripe. That’s relatively pathetic and in a close came could mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Hey, a Win is a Good Thing, but the Hokies have some “stuff” to correct, or the ACC run is going to be tougher than it needs to be. Right now, Virginia Tech sits at 11-1 and there might be some movement in a positive direction in Monday’s polling. There are still some things to fix, though.
Stats to Note
Sean Pedulla led the team in scoring with 21 points. He was still only 5-12 from the floor, which was helped by his 50% shooting from 3-point range. Hunter Cattoor finally got off the single figure scoring slump with 13, twelve of which were from downtown. He’d have had 14 if he hadn’t joined his teammates in missing too many free throws. Justyn Mutts scored 11. There were no hot rebounders, so no one was close to a double-double that way. Pedulla handed out a team high 6 assists. One thing that was evident is that Mike Young was subbing like crazy for the entire game. There were times when most of everyone came off the floor and the bench went in. Pedulla and Darius Maddox led the team with time on the floor, with 33 and 34 respectively. No one dominated and some of the usual players sporting big numbers were relatively quiet. All in all, Young had 12 players with some time on the court which was the entire bench.
It was a win, but the next game is going to be a real challenge. Tech travels to Chestnut Hill to play Boston College on Wednesday, just before the Christmas break. They need to clean up quite a few things and then overcome the home court advantage in Boston. Bryan should be back to comment for that one.