ACC play is here for real, and what better way to usher in what coach Tony Bennett calls the “second season” with a visit from Virginia Tech. Boasting impressive 3-point shooting, an offense that doesn’t turn the ball over much, a signature win over preseason #1 Michigan State, and a potential break-out star in Landers Nolley, would new coach Mike Young begin his Virginia Tech career with a win over Virginia?
A win is a win is a win, only more so when it comes over Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers jumped to an early 7 – 2 lead, held the Hokies scoreless for four 4-minute stretches en route to their lowest score in 52 years, and forced Tech into a 16% night from 3. It was also the 4th time this season the Hoos have held a foe to under 40 points. It was a comprehensive beatdown.
Braxton Key. He graduated from a cast on his left wrist to a splint and continued his fine run of play: he scored 11 of Virginia’s first 23 points and finished with 18 points on 8 – 12 shooting and he gathered 10 boards on the game. Plus, he turned his defense up a notch in the second half and was largely responsible for Nolley scoring just 3 points after the break.
Jay Huff. Bennett has tried starting Huff, or like today, bringing him off the bench to be a spark for the team. Huff’s not doing particularly well in either role. The past couple of games he’s been lackadaisical. It happened twice against Navy, and once again today, but Huff established position under the defensive board only to allow a much shorter player behind him to get the rebound. He’s playing smaller than his 7’1” frame would suggest. He also had two rather marked over-rotations out on the perimeter that allowed easy paths to basket for Nolley and PJ Horne.
Closing out the first half. At last! The Hokies were hanging around in the first half. Nolley made a pair of threes – the last a +1 after Braxton Key bit on a pump fake that I could see was a pump – and Tech was only down 28 – 17 with the ball and 40 seconds left to play. It had all the hallmarks of another defensive lapse that would let the Hokies close to 8 or 9 going into the locker room. Except that Mamadi Diakite drew the assignment of stopping Nolley when he tried to get down low for a slash to the bucket. Diakite moved his feet, shielded Nolley beautifully, and Nolley lost the ball. Bennett called a timeout – rare for him – and Clark fed Huff at the elbow, who then made this pass to Kody Stattmann:
The lead was up to 13 and it was the Cavaliers who were bouncing into the locker room. Tech never got closer than that the rest of the game.
3-point shooting. Oh, we shot all right, 7 – 21 on the day, for a 33.3% outing. That is good for us at this point, but historically 30% is pretty sucky. At least four of these were toss-ups as the shot clock was expiring, so in terms of true shooting, maybe you could say we were 7 – 17 for 41%. Nah. Shooting late in the clock is part of the game after all. There is still no reason for anyone to fear our outside game at this point.
To be fair, it was a poor night shooting the 3 for lots of teams across the collegiate landscape. Maryland and Kansas shot 25%; Villanova, Marquette and Auburn made 23% of their shots, West Virginia was at 21% and Kansas brings up the rear at 17.6%. So maybe 33.3% is the new average.
Oh wait, we held Tech to 16%. LOL
Kody Stattmann. The Aussie had a career high 10 points to go with 8 rebounds, helping Virginia to a commanding 38 – 25 rebounding margin. He was aggressive driving to the rim and had the nicest drive-and-kick of the game on Kihei Clark’s three. We’d be a better team if he was our 7th or 8th man as opposed to a starter, but he is getting more involved as the season is progressing. It is a shame he missed four games earlier this season due to illness.
Kihei Clark. Clark also set a career high, scoring 18 points and getting into the paint at will. He’s still logging too many minutes – and Chase Coleman played alongside him for at least half of his minutes today – but when Clark is fully focused on the job, he’s proving to be a perfectly fine replacement for the departed Ty Jerome.