Feb 21, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Ahmed Hill (13) dribbles the ball in front of North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Ralston Turner (22) during the second half at PNC Arena. The Wolfpack won 69-53. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
It has been a tough stretch of games for the Hokies. First there was the blowout at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, a game the Hokies were never really in. Next there was the blowout loss to the Miami Hurricanes. That game was actually very close at the half, but the Hokies were over matched in the second half on the way to the loss. The third game in this brutal road trip would be a trip to Raleigh to face the NC State Wolfpack. The question would be, could the Hokies win this game? Actually the more realistic question would be could the Hokies keep from being blown out for the third straight game? The answer is a complicated one.
The Hokies came into this game the same way they came into every other game this season, severely undersized. So far this season Buzz Williams has found ways to overcome this physical deficiency to keep the Hokies competitive. However, teams have constantly beat the Hokies up inside, and on occasion prevented the Hokies from having any inside scoring presence at all. This game on paper looked to one of those games where the Hokies would be giving up a lot of post scoring, and having to rely on outside shooting to keep the game close. For the first half of play, the paper did not lie.
NC State’s size advantage played a huge part in the Hokies game plan. Buzz Williams wanted to limit the inside scoring and rebounding on the offensive end by pinching the players towards the middle of the defense. This strategy worked, keeping the rebounding advantage only to plus 2 for the Wolfpack and only allowing a plus 8 scoring advantage in the paint for the first half. However, the downside was the outside shot was open for NC State, and they took advantage.
NC State used excellent shooting to create a big lead early on. Let’s be clear the Wolfpack did score in the paint to, throwing several backdoor alley-oops to wide open players. This offensive combination created a lead that at one time grew to 16. The NC State size also created a problem for the Hokies offense. For the majority of the first half the ball was just passed around the perimeter, because when the Hokies attacked the rim they were met with a wall of huge defenders.
However, the Hokies kept playing hard and scrapped the whole half. The Hokies were unable to get to the rim but their outside shooting heated up and they ended the half on an 11-2 run to draw the game to a close 32-25 score at the halftime whistle. Justin Bibbs was a huge part of the run, and at one point scored 10 straight points for the Hokies towards the end of the half.
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The second half started with the Hokies coming out being the aggressor, and really taking it to the Wolfpack. The Hokies went to the rim, scored in the paint, hit the open threes, and rebounded on the defensive end. At one point the Hokies made 11 consecutive baskets, and cut the lead to 4. However, a quick timeout by NC State Mark Gottfried got the Wolfpack back on track. State would go back inside where they had their advantage, and when the Hokies collapsed they would kick the ball out for open shots.
Ralston Turner led the Wolfpack with 18 points, including 4 triples. Trevor Lacey, the leading scorer for NC State finished with 14 points and contributed 6 assists. The Hokies really did not have an answer for either one of these two scorers, as they took advantage of the Hokies wanting to limit the inside presence of the Wolfpack.
The Hokies were led by Justin Bibbs, who after his 10 consecutive points finished with 19 for the game. Bibb’s scoring outburst is a happy sign for Hokie fans as he had struggled since returning from a concussion. Adam Smith continued his constant scoring with 15 points tonight. The other bright spot was the play of Christian Beyer. Once again Beyer played a part in the Hokies offense. Beyer finished with 8 points and grabbed 7 boards, which led the team. Beyer seemed to hang around the rim in the second half and clean up the garbage. Beyer is definitely not the most talented player on the Hokies team, but he might be the hardest working.
The game started with the question could the Hokies keep the game close and not get blown out. The answer is not completely black and white. Yes they did lose by double digits, but it didn’t seem as dominating as the last two games. The announcers kept talking about the future for the Hokies and that is the important thing to remember right now. Yes, it is horrible losing, but the losing is not going to be a permanent thing under Buzz Williams. The talent is there it is just young. The next game might not be the beautiful win we as fans want either, as the Hokies welcome Duke to town. One thing is for sure the effort to get the win will definitely be there.