Feb 18, 2015; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes center Tonye Jekiri (23) grabs a rebound against Virginia Tech Hokies forward Satchel Pierce (21) in the second half at BankUnited Center. The Hurricanes won 76-52. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Well Hokie fans when this basketball season started there wasn’t too much expectation when it came to success. The Hokies have thrilled fans this year with tough play, being in close games in all honesty they had no business being in. These close games were in truth thrilling, but did not turn out in the Hokies favor, which left a sour taste in most fans mouths. To be that close to a signature victory, only to have it snatched away. However, along with this sour taste came a feeling of hope at what this team was trending toward, and the success they could have in the ACC. However, the last two games this hope has been crushed, with two blowout defeats at the hands of Clemson and Miami. Today, the Hokies look to right the ship, and get a win in Raleigh to complete this last season road trip.
The Hokies take on a NC State team that is coming off a major upset against #9 Louisville. The Wolfpack defeated the Cardinals on Saturday 74-65, however this was not the first major upset the NC State has pulled off this year. Earlier in the season the Wolfpack defeated #2 Duke. The Pack have been in close games all year long and have been significantly better than their 15-11 record shows. One thing that might play in the Hokies favor is the fact that this game is sandwiched in-between the Louisville win and the Wolfpack’s matchup with in state rival UNC. Perhaps the Hokies will be the all so common overlooked team that so often cause tournament bound teams to slip up.
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In order for the Hokies to beat the Wolfpack they will have to control Trevor Lacey. Lacey, who is a transfer from Alabama, is the leading scorer on the Wolfpack team at 16 and a half a game. Lacey is also the second leading assist man on the team averaging just over 3 helpers a game. Lacey is the type of guard that could give the Hokies trouble as he can not only score but can create shots for other players on the team as he gets into the lane, passing as the defense collapses around him. The Hokies have showed they have problems defensively with pick and roll, so I look for Lacey to have a major impact on the game scoring as well as passing.
Another part of the game the Hokies struggle with is rebounding. The Hokies have gotten better somewhat as the season has worn on. However, last game it was a major problem. The Hokies will need a concerted effort from all players on the glass today as they are going to be undersized again. What size the Hokies do have will be counted on to keep the wolves at bay on the glass.
All year long the Hokies have struggled to score the basketball. Play on the offensive end has been spotty, and the Hokies have not had a player they could depend on to get a basket if they really needed one. Malik Mueller of late has been a solid option, but last game he struggled to score as he suffered a major cut above his left eye. I look for Mueller to be back to form today against NC State. Adam Smith is the Hokies long range threat, and is currently third in the ACC in three point shooting percentage. Smith, however is being chased off of screens as many teams have figured out not to give him any open looks. Then there is the wild card for the Hokies Justin Bibbs.
Bibbs at the start of the season was the Hokies best scoring option. However, a concussion sidelined him for several games. Bibbs returned, but his offense did not. Bibbs had struggled mightily until last game. Bibbs scored 11 points, hopefully last game was the beginning of a resurgence of his offensive game. The Hokies need Bibbs to score to give them another option to score.
This game is the definition of a trap game for the Wolfpack. It is also an opportunity for the Hokies to get back so of the momentum they had gained before the last two games. The game is winnable for the Hokies, if they play tough and do what they are capable of doing on the offense and defensive end. NC State is one of the last four teams in so a slip up now would be terrible for their chances at making the tourney. I look for the game to be tight all the way to the wire. However, the Wolfpack will not let this game be the reason they don’t make it into the tournament, they win a close one 78-74. Is another close loss really better than a blowout loss?