Feb 9, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Malik Muller (1) celebrates with guard Ahmed Hill (13) and guard Devin Wilson (11) after their victory against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Cassell Coliseum. Virginia Tech defeated Georgia Tech 65-63. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Late night starts for basketball games on the east coast are just a pain. Not only are they a pain for the teams involved, the fans attending the games, they are a pain for those of us writing the recaps for said game. However, all of the groups involved must soldier on as the Virginia Tech was involved in one of those dreaded late evening starts against the Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech tonight. The way the game was played in the first half it would seem both teams were up past their bed times. However, the second half the Hokies proved they were more of the night owl type than the Yellow Jackets and got the win 65-63.
The first half of the game was played in groups of runs. The Hokies came out on fire and jumped out to a commanding 12 point lead, on the backs of Malik Mueller and Shane Henry. The Hokies used their quickness and defensive pressure to create this lead and frustrate the Yellow Jackets. However, the lead was short lived as the Yellow Jackets went on a run of their own to get the game back to even. Both teams played evenly for a few minutes but it was the Yellow Jackets that ended the half on a 9-2 scoring run and took a 5 point lead into the locker room at half time.
I said in my preview that the Hokies might actually be able to matchup size wise with the Yellow Jackets. That may have been true height wise, but girth wise it was not a contest. Charles Mitchell is a huge individual, and he basically imposed his will on the offensive glass for the Yellow Jackets not only in the first half but in the entire game. Rebounding has been an issue for the Hokies all year long, I thought it would be more even today, boy was I wrong! In the first half the Yellow Jackets had as many offensive rebounds as the Hokies had rebounds in general.
The second half was much more of the same. Georgia Tech continued to control the backboards finishing with a 39-27 advantage in the rebounding department. Out of the 39 rebounds grabbed by the Yellow Jackets 19 were offensive. Charles Mitchell led the way for the Yellow Jackets on the glass with 8 rebounds, 7 of them offensive. Mitchell not only led the way on the glass but led the way on the scoreboard with 17 points.
Even with the disadvantage on the glass the Hokies continued to attack what was a porous interior defense for the Yellow Jackets. Buzz Williams has had the undersized team the entire year, however he has learned to use his smaller team’s strengths to create a serviceable offense. That offense took advantage of every misstep by the Yellow Jackets. Adam Smith and Malik Mueller carved up the interior of the defense. Both Hokie players drove the ball hard to the rim and either scored or dropped the ball off to a wide open teammate for an easy basket. Mueller finished with a team high 17 points including what would be the basket that would put the Hokies up for good. Adam Smith finish with 15 points and sealed the game at the line to give the Hokies their second conference win.
The game was by no means a thing of beauty. The Hokies played extremely sloppy at times and got bullied on almost every possession on the glass. All these things considered the Hokies played probably one of the best games as a team all year. Buzz Williams only had one other player in double figures this game, Shane Henry with 10, but the rest of the team chipped in on the offensive end where they were needed, but more importantly on the defensive end forcing 13 turnovers. The Hokies used this good team play to overcome poor nights from Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs.
The game tonight started late and ended even later. However, the hour was not too late for the Hokie offense to come alive to secure their second conference victory. Buzz William’s team finished the game on a 17-5 run. The Hokies will get a little time to enjoy the victory and get ready for their next game. On Saturday the Hokies take on Clemson on the road and for sure they will be fighting an uphill battle once again. Hopefully, tonight game not only taught the coaching staff some lessons they can use against future competition, but gave the players the confidence they need to get the job done in future ACC games as well.