The Virginia Tech Hokies came into tonight’s game off of a 55 – 75 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hokies (4-1) matched up with no. 24 Clemson (5-0) in its ACC opener. Despite its ugly one loss, Virginia Tech has had a solid start to the season, a similar start to last season’s. The team fell out of the AP Poll this past week, so the Hokies played with a chip on their shoulders as they squeaked out a 66 – 60 win over the Tigers.
The Hokies controlled the first half of the game and they led at halftime 32 – 27. It seemed like offense was the main focus for the team tonight as they beat out the Tigers in most categories such as rebounds, assists, field goal and three-point percentage.
Unfortunately, the Hokies were lacking on the defensive side as the Tigers had more blocks (Clem: 5 & VT: 3) and steals (Clem: 5 & VT: 1). Clemson is a good defensive team, it is the best defensive team in the ACC in the early season, so it was to be expected.
However, the poor ball handling for Virginia Tech in the first half was not expected. The team turned over the ball a whooping 11 times. Through the first five games, it averaged 12 per game, so 11 turnovers in the first half was worrisome to see from Mike Young’s team. Fortunately, Clemson was not able to capitalize on the turnovers as the Tigers scored only six points off Tech turnovers, who scored nine points off the Tigers’ six turnovers.
Virginia Tech started off the second half with a lot of momentum as it went on a 9 -2 run sparked by transfer forward Keve Aluma’s two free throws just 12 seconds into the half. It seemed the Hokies had the game in firm control as the Tigers could not find the basket for nearly eight minutes. But the poor ball handling from the first half carried over to the second half as the Hokies turned over the ball six more times totaling a season high of 17 for the game.
Bad three-point shooting and lackluster perimeter defense also allowed Clemson to come back into the game. Virginia Tech hit only one three in the second half (1 out of 8) in comparison to its four in the first half (4 out of 8). The Tigers hit six threes in the second half, two more than they made in the first half and managed to shoot at a 40% clip for both halves.
Virginia Tech was fortunate to have redshirt sophomore guard Tyrece Radford step up in this game as he was able to close out the game with a game sealing shot with 32 seconds left on the clock. He even added in a little flex after the bucket. Radford led the team in scoring as he had 15 points. He was followed by Aluma, and sophomore guard Nahiem Alleyne both with 13 apiece and sophomore guard Hunter Cattoor with 11 points.
Though early in the season, Aluma has been the Hokies’ main scorer as the offense has run through him at times in previous games. However, Radford still seems to have that combustible element factor going for him. He is still the team’s X-factor and he manages to make his presence felt whenever he can.
After beating the then undefeated Tigers, the Hokies move up to 5 -1 on the season and 1 -0 in the ACC. The Virginia Tech Hokies will continue their homestand as they will take on the Coppin State University Eagles (1 -5) on Dec. 19.