Jan 3, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Buzz Williams gives instructions to an assistant coach during the game against the Syracuse Orange at Cassell Coliseum. Syracuse defeated Virginia Tech 68-66. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies were looking to pull off a big home upset today against a Syracuse Orange team that is starting to heat up after going 9-4 in their non-conference games. The Hokies were also looking to bounce back after falling to 8-5 due to a 31-points loss against West Virginia in Morgantown.
At halftime, it seemed like the Hokies had no chance, but Virginia Tech nearly pulled off a huge comeback and upset.
The Hokies lost a very close game 68-66 which was a lot closer than expected especially with Syracuse being up by 19 at halftime. The Hokies made a great comeback to get the lead down within 2 to 4 points before Syracuse stretched the lead back out to as much as 11.
However, the Hokies started making a lot of shots in the final 2 minutes while Syracuse missed some free throws. Syracuse’s Ron Patterson missed both free throws when the Hokies were down 2 with just over 4 seconds left. The Hokies got it down the court quickly to Malik Muller in the corner but his three-pointer came up just short.
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It was an exciting finish in Blacksburg and a great comeback that definitely has given fans a lot more confidence about what the Hokies might be able to do this season in ACC play. Virginia Tech’s energy and intensity was on the level that Buzz Williams has wanted and it nearly led them to pulling off the comeback.
However, this is a young team that will need some more time to keep developing, and also add some more size before becoming a very dangerous ACC team.
One player who shined was Justin Bibbs who bounced back from 4 points and 8 turnovers against West Virginia to have 22 points, 11 rebounds, and only 3 turnovers against Syracuse. Bibbs has become a player that does a lot more than just score, and his first career double-double is proof of that.
Jan 3, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Justin Bibbs (10) shoots over Syracuse Orange forward Rakeem Christmas (25) in the second half at Cassel Coliseum. Syracuse defeated Virginia Tech 68-66. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Bibbs has proven to be a player that can bounce back after a bad game and today was the latest example of that.
Devin Wilson also did a great job of moving the ball around and creating scoring opportunities for either himself or someone else with 13 points and 8 assists. Wilson is also a better shooter than he thinks he is himself, and needs to be willing to take a couple more shots though he seems to be gaining some confidence in his shooting.
Adam Smith had 7 points but was 3 of 13 from the field and his shot selection needs to improve after it was subpar in this game. Will Johnston made a couple of big threes down the stretch and had 7 points while Ahmed Hill had 8 points.
Buzz Williams and the Hokies will still approach this game as a loss, but there are definitely plenty of positives. Of course, the Hokies did give up 15 offensive rebounds but that was mainly due to the Hokies’ lack of frontcourt depth.
However, Shane Henry and Satchel Pierce need to be better on the glass after only having a combined 6 rebounds in this game. The Hokies need their big men to step up on the glass and if that happens, this Virginia Tech team should start to play even better.
There is definitely plenty of reason for optimism ahead of the Hokies’ trip to Tallahassee to take on Florida State.
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