After a long holiday break, Virginia Tech suited up to take on its biggest rival, No. 19 Virginia, in coach Mike Young’s first Commonwealth Clash. At the time of the matchup, Virginia was ranked the lowest it has been against Virginia Tech since 2014.
Virginia Tech and Virginia play with very different styles. Tech leads the conference in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage, while Virginia plays at the slowest tempo in the country, and is known for its defense.The Cavaliers sometimes struggle with scoring and often rely on their defense to win games.
Virginia came away with the win, 65-39. Surprisingly, it was its offense that got the job done. But, Virginia Tech was not able to fully engage in its speciality, 3-point shooting. The Hokies only shot 16% from the 3-point line.
The Hokies struggled on offense for the first seven minutes of play. Virginia forced two turnovers and was not giving Tech open looks. At the 13-minute mark, Virginia Tech only had a singular layup made by Tyrece Radford on the scoreboard.
Virginia’s defense proved itself tough as the Hokies only had four made baskets through 16 minutes of regulation, all shot by Landers Nolley. Virginia Tech could not capitalize on its possessions and often hit the ball out of bounds under the basket.
Nolley contributed 15 of Tech’s 17 first-half points and was able to pick up the offense in the last two minutes of the half. It markes a season-low in points scored through 20 minutes of play. But, the Cavalier defense does not deserve all of the credit for Virginia Tech’s lack of points; most of its shots just were not falling.
“We missed a couple of shots that we typically get down and instead of being down seven or eight in pretty good shape at the end of the first half, we were down 13,” Young said. “That’s not insurmountable but very, very difficult.”
The Hokies shot just 29% from the floor and 17% from behind the arc.
Jay Huff dunked the ball in the final seconds of the first half to give Virginia a 13-point advantage over the Hokies. The Cavalier’s 30-point first half is an above average offensive performance for the team.
It was much of the same for both teams to start the second half. Virginia continued to hit its shots and Virginia Tech could not connect with the basket. The Cavaliers easily maintained a double-digit lead.
With just under 10 minutes left, a few strong offensive efforts from Hunter Cattoor began to build momentum for Tech. But, the Hokies were not able to chip away at Virginia’s 20-point lead.
“When you move the ball, good things happen with more things opening good driving gaps. Guys can then get to the rim if they want. It opens up more opportunities for people to get
more space,” Nolley said.
Virginia Tech’s defense was no match for the Cavaliers as it gave up numerous easy dunks to allow Virginia to win by 26 points, the second-largest deficit this season.
Braxton Key and Kihei Clark were large components for Virginia’s offense, each totaling 18 points and Key recording a double-double.
Landers Nolley racked up 18 points for Tech, but was the only player in double-figures.
The Hokies also lost possession 13 times on turnovers and were outrebounded 25 to 38 by the Cavaliers.
Virginia Tech has a long stretch of 17 consecutive ACC games to play ahead of it. Next, it travels to Syracuse for its matchup with the Orange on Jan. 7. The Hokies will play Virginia again for a second Commonwealth Clash in Blacksburg on Feb. 6. Virginia Tech will need a winning ACC record to have hopes of receiving a March Madness bid. So far, Tech sits at 1-2 in conference play.