Jan 18, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Devin Wilson (11) with the ball as North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) and forward J.P. Tokoto (13) defend in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated the Hokies 68-53 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies came into the game against North Carolina in the midst of a 4 game losing streak. The Hokies were coming off a thrashing at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals. Traveling to Chapel Hill, the odds of the Hokies getting off the losing streak against the 15th ranked were long at best.
The Hokies were already missing big man Joey van Zegeran who was suspended by Buzz Williams four games ago. Then, the news came out the Hokies were also going to be without leading scorer, Justin Bibbs.
Bibbs, out with a concussion, not playing would not only leave a hole in the scoring load but it would force Buzz Williams to play with a very thin bench. Ultimately, the Hokies fell 68-53 in Chapel Hill
The first half had the Hokies scrapping and playing with the toughness and hustle Williams demands. However, hustle only goes so far. They say speed kills, but in the first half it was size that doomed the Hokies.
UNC controlled the backboards and took advantage of the undersized Hokies. The Tar Heels amassed a 27 to 12 advantage on the glass which included 10 offensive rebounds. The Heels were led by Justin Jackson who was all over the court rebounding and scoring the basketball.
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The Hokies didn’t help themselves on the offensive end as they shot 32% from the field. During one stretch, the Hokies went almost seven minutes without a point. Droughts like that are what the Hokies need to avoid for the rest of the season.
This lack of scoring is where the Hokies miss Justin Bibbs the most. Bibbs is a player who could go and get his own shot, something the Hokies struggled at doing the first half. These offensive struggles as well as losing the battle on the backboard put the Hokies in a 34-21 hole.
The second half was much of the same as the Hokies had no answer for the Tar Heels’ size advantage. However, the game never got to be a complete blowout as the Hokies scrappiness kept them in the game, even cutting the game to single digits with under 2 minutes to play. The 3-point arc also kept the Hokies in the game as they finished with 10 threes in the game.
Jan 18, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard/forward Justin Jackson (44) shoots as Virginia Tech Hokies guard Jalen Hudson (23) defends in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Hokies were led in scoring by Adam Smith with 11 points. and Shane Henry with 10 points while also leading the team with 9 rebounds. Henry was a real spark plug for the Hokies as his hustle along with Will Johnston’s hustle energized the Hokies. This energy allowed the Hokies to force 17 turnovers this game.
The Tar Heels were led in scoring by Justin Jackson who finished with 16 points. Jackson was a nightmare for the Hokies as the defense could not figure out a way to keep him out of the flow of the game. Jackson also finished with 7 rebounds and 4 assists to round out his night.
A surprising fact from this game was that the Tar Heels only shot 17 free throws, all of them in the second half. The Tar Heels finished with a plus-27 advantage on the glass which was the ultimate deciding factor of the game.
Overall, the game was one the Hokies were not expected to win and the fact that it was as close as it was is a testament to the strides this team is making. Size is going to be an issue all year long, but the Hokies just need to work on boxing out better as a team. On the positive note, the team never gave up and kept competing till the final whistle.
The next stretch of games are going to be much of the same as the last two games for the Hokies, tough opponents that are at the top of the conference. Hopefully, Bibbs will return from a concussion and combining that with this type of effort all game long will get the Hokies over the hump.
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