The Virginia Tech Hokies entered Thursday’s matchup against VMI on a hot streak, winning their last three games against Radford, Villanova and South Florida. The Hokies were without shooting guard Cartier Diarra for undisclosed reasons. The game represented somewhat of a trap game for the Hokies as they attempted to hold onto their No. 16 national ranking with fellow ACC rivals dropping games left and right. VMI certainly gave Virginia Tech a run for its money.
Beginning the game shooting 3-12 from the field, the Hokies had one of their toughest games converting shots while they were unable to take care of the ball as well. While their offensive effort in the first half resulted in a sizable eight-point lead as the buzzer sounded, the Virginia Tech defense showed up once again, limiting the Keydets’ opportunities to exclusively perimeter shots. With Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts hogging the paint, a luxury that was lacking last year, the only chance for a VMI layup was on transition. Despite poor free-throw shooting, ball handling and field goal percentage, the Hokies were the better team in the first half.
The lead boasted by Virginia Tech quickly evaporated to begin the second as the offense returned to its disorganized form. Much of this was attributed to the Hokies' meager three-point shooting, in which they were 3-19 from the perimeter a couple minutes into the second half. With the Keydets hopping out to a 13-0 run and seizing the momentum, the absence of Diarra’s wing defense was glaring. Even though VMI seemed to have gained the momentum necessary to ride it to victory, a multitude of timeouts by Mike Young to gather his team resulted in an ensuing 9-0 Tech run shifting the score to 50-45 in favor of the Hokies. Much of the success on their scoring streak was thanks to offensive rebounds as every player on the floor crashed the boards to secure both defensive and offensive rebounds. These offensive rebounds frequently abounded to second chance points, keeping the Hokies in the game.
Virginia Tech wouldn’t give up the lead again as Wabissa Bede, the leader of the team, would stick the nail in the coffin with a spot-up jump shot from the free throw line, expanding the deficit for the Keydets to eight points with 1:30 left in the contest. The final score of the game was 57-64 in favor of the Hokies as they shot 21-60 from the field with 48 rebounds compared to VMI’s 30. Virginia Tech also shot 4-27 from three-point range as well as 18-27 from the free-throw line.
The Hokies ran into their first buzzsaw of the year, lacking heavily in multiple aspects of the game even though they continued to chop wood as best said by Mike Young. Virginia Tech has much to be proud of as it is one of only a couple remaining undefeated teams in the ACC, but it will face tall orders in the coming weeks against Penn State and Clemson.