In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance, you haven’t, Hokie basketball is back! The Baby Hokies never trailed in this game, controlled the game throughout, but could not put away the pesky phoenix due to poor free throw shooting in the second half (stop the presses).
The Hokies had to work harder in this one than people may have expected, mainly thanks to horrific second half foul shooting (13/26), but found a way to hold on and win. Tech took a 4-2 lead early and never lost it. VT led by as many as 15, but the game remained in single digits most of the second half.
Jeff Allen (Fr) led the Hokies with 19 points, including 13 in the first half. I’m not going to anoint him the best Hokie forward since Ace Custis just yet, but… Jeff was the most impressive freshman of the four that played tonight. He was a beast on the boards. He was a force on offense, including a three-pointer. His only glitch was that he was beaten in the low post a couple of times in the first half and gave up some easy hoops. But after that, he showed his shot blocking presence with two or three blocks. Allen had a double-double, chipping in 10 rebounds.
A.D. Vassallo (Jr) had 17 for Virginia Tech. He showed his usual smooth stroke from the outside, and had some nice pull up jumpers. However his free throw shooting down the stretch was lousy. If he was a rapper, his name would be 50 (per)cent, as he hit one of two from the line on most trips. He did hit two clutch free throw with 19 seconds left after elon cut the score to 65-64. Vassallo also worked much harder on D than he has in the past.
Deron Washington had 14 for the Hokies. He kicked off the 2007-08 scoring with an early runner. Deron had a nice breakaway dunk in the first half that brought the crowd to its feet, a second half dunk that gave the elon player in his way tonsilitis, but he missed all three of his three-point attempts. He played some at the shooting guard spot on O and D, which is a new twist but seemed to be a good look for him and allowed him to use his explosiveness. Like Allen, Deron had a double-double with his 14 points and 11 boards. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you the…
Deron Flop-O-Meter: 6 (times Deron needlessly fell to the ground)
Let’s break things down.
The offense looked stagnant at times, which is not rare for a Greenberg offense. Little movement away from the ball at times. The low post players, namely Allen and Cheick Diakite, showed some nice moves. Cheick used to spin baseline every time he got the ball last year but showed a baby hook into the lane tonight. Allen has the same hook. He can use either hand near the hoop.
The guards (Malcolm Delaney and Hank Thorns) did not force the action much. They seemed content to sit on the perimeter and just throw the ball around or feed it inside. Thorns appears to have a slightly better handle and had a nice feed for a dunk to Diakite. Neither of them pushed the ball up the court much. Even though Greenberg said this team would run a lot, the Hokies really didn’t do much of it tonight. elon did a good job of getting back although Tech did have a few breakaways and did well scoring in transition. The Hokies really need to find ways to get out on the break more since they are not strong in a half court set. Thorns and Delaney combined for just 6 points, although they did combine for 7 assists.
The wings: Vassallo, Washington, and J.T. Thompson, had a solid game. Most of the offense went through them, at least in terms of creating points. Thompson looked good in limited minutes, scoring 7 points, but had little action in the second half.
Tech opened in a 1-3-1 half court trap with Deron at the top and Thorns (5’9″ish) at the bottom [yes, you read that correctly]. It seemed like a good look for the Hokies that could get them some turnovers but the Hokies never used it again after the first media timeout. The Hokies played man for the final 35 minutes.
Tech’s help defense was poor and often guys for elon drove right down the lane and scored or dished for a wide open jumper. This should improve as the young guys gel and get used to Greenberg’s system.
Allen has quick hands on defense and had a couple of steals. He really has no weakness in his game from what I saw tonight.
Thorns is quick but loses his man in the lane on penetration due to his small size. This will be a liability as the year goes on.
Delaney works very hard at defense and will be brought in for Thorns in defensive situations. Delaney is also a terrific free throw shooter and will come in for that late in games.
A long time bugaboo of the Hokies and it showed no improvement tonight. Tech gave up numerous offensive rebounds, especially in 50/50 situations (high or long rebounds). Allen is Tech’s best rebounder. Diakite and Vassallo are solid, too. Witcher is just not aggressive enough on rebounds and that is why he sees the fewest minutes of the three big men (along with Allen and Diakite). Neither guard did much on the boards. Tech will likely get eaten alive again on the boards this year, after finishing 11th in the ACC in rebounding margin last season.
GREAT turnout by the students! Student section was almost full and they were up the entire game and making noise. Very impressive. Need to keep this intensity!
Old folks (like me) only filled about 2/3 of the rest of the arena. Maybe 7,000 at best were there. Still more than I expected for elon, but a disappointment on a football weekend considering there will be 60,000+ Hokies (not counting noles) in Lane tomorrow.
Highlight of the Game:
I’d have to go with when 6’8″ Jeff Allen brought the ball all the way up the court and fed 5’9″ Hank Thorns for a lay-up.
Boxscore: VT 69, elon 64
Points Leader: Allen – 19
Rebound Leader: Washington – 11
Assist Leader: Thorns – 4
Blocks Leader: Diakite – 3
Steals Leader: Allen – 4
FG%: 47% (41% against)
3-Pt%: 3/10 – 30%
FT%: 59% (7/8 in the first half but just 13/26 in the second)
Halftime Score: VT 37, elon 29
Allen – A- | Just needs to be a bit better on D; fronting guys may not work for him since he is a little short. But man was he impressive and has a WIDE body. Very aggressive on offense with good low post moves, even with his back to the basket (something the Hokies haven’t had much of lately).
Washington – B+ | Needs to assert himself more on offense and needs to hit his 3′s to get defenders to come out on him.
Vassallo – B- | Played better D than I expected but had 3 traveling calls.
Thorns – C- | Ran the offense alright, but really didn’t create anything on the break or the half court set. Gets lost on D.
Diakite – B | Did what he was supposed: bang inside. Showed a nice hook shot.
Thompson – A | Looked good while he was on the court. Nice mid-range jumper and had a sweet dunk. Earned more minutes, in my opinion.
Delaney – C | Like Thorns, just didn’t do much. Too passive. Good energy though but needs to assert himself on O.
Witcher – D+ | Didn’t score. Didn’t look aggressive on the boards.
All starters played 24+ minutes with Deron logging 36 and Allen 31. All three bench players had less than 20 minutes played.