The north carolina tar heels used a stifling second half defense to outscore Virginia Tech 44-26 in the second stanza en route to a 78-64 victory in Chapel Hill, NC. The #9 heels used their tremendous size advantage up front, led by All-American candidate Ed Davis with his 20 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks, his ninth double-double of the season. Deon Thompson added 13 points up front before fouling out. For the Hokies, Jeff Allen was held to only 4 points and shut out in the second half. Seth Greenberg stated before this game that the Hokies would have to improve their transition defense to compete with unc; that did not happen as Tech gave up way too many easy baskets, especially in the second half.
In a game that could have been billed as “the battle of bad ankles” going into it, Tech’s Malcolm Delaney started the game and gutted out a 26 point performance, but was held to only 6 after halftime and was held scoreless for the first 10 minutes of the second half as the heels seized control of the game. Will Graves and Marcus Ginyard both missed carolina’s loss last Monday at the college of charleston with injured ankles, but both returned to action against the Hokies. Graves and Larry Drew III combined to go a perfect 5-5 on three pointers to close the second half, leading a team that was not known for their outside shooting. The heels had started 0 of 11 from behind the arc.
Plainly put, the game was a tale of two halves. The Hokies came out looking great on the defensive end and seemed inspired by the return of the ACC’s leading scorer Malcolm Delaney. unc came out in a 2-3 zone and Malcolm responded by nailing his first three-pointer. Dorenzo Hudson, coming off a career high 41 points against seton hall, came out ice cold in this one, with no sign of the urgency of his scoring that was there when Delaney was out.
While no one other than Delaney could connect cosistently from the outside, the Hokies seemed to get to every loose ball in the first half, outrebounded, and seemed to be outplaying the much larger tar heels. J.T. Thompson had some great hustle plays in the first half and had 6 early points. The game appeared to be taking the shape of the Hokies’ games against unc in the previous two ACC Tournaments, with Tech leading by as many as nine, 25-16 about half way through the first half. Freshman guard Dexter Strickland was a big spark for unc and kept the tar heels close with his quickness to the hoop and good penetration. The Hokies used a zone defense very successfully and held the tar heels to 0-7 three-point shooting in the first half. They carried a 38-34 lead into the locker room.
carolina came out in the second half again in a 2-3 zone but were intent on making any Hokie other than Delaney beat them from the outside. The tar heels picked up the pace offensively with the Hokies apparently forgetting that the transition game was a huge advantage for the heels. Davis and Thompson took over inside early in the second half and suddenly unc was getting all the loose balls. As the tar heels were holding Delaney scoreless over the first 10 minutes of the second half, freshman Manny Atkins had two huge turnovers, the rim seemed to have a lid on it, and carolina started to pull away. The heels quickly turned a 5 point advantage with under 8:00 remaining into a 12 point edge with 4:00 to go.
From there Will Graves and Larry Drew III took turns bombing threes down the stretch as the Hokies got lazy on defense and this one turned out like most every other time the Hokies open up ACC play on “Sunday Night Hoops” (recall the past buzzer beaters at duke and wake or last year’s debacle at duke).
The Hokies fall to 12-2 (0-1 ACC) and return to play on Wednesday night when they host the 15-1 miami hurricanes in Cassell Coliseum at 7:00 PM.
- To me this game swung on two plays in the second half – Zo’s missed three with 12:50 to go that would have put the Hokies back up 2 and helped them regain momentum and the non-call on Raines’s layup with 6:35 to go. The latter was a real dagger. Tech trailed 60-55 and had they called goaltending as they should have (Ed Davis swatted the ball AFTER it had hit the backboard), the Hokies would have been within 3. Instead, the heels went up the court and Graves hit a 3 to put the heels up 8. Another 3 followed on the next unc possession and Tech never got the game under single digits after that.
- The freshmen looked like freshmen tonight. As Rob mentioned, Atkins had two critical turnovers in the second half. Boggs missed the front end of a one-and-one and then committed a dumb foul 80 feet from the hoop. Green still struggles to be able to advance the ball far enough in the half court set to get Tech into their offense. Raines looked solid inside but his stat line doesn’t show it. The freshmen had just 3 points, and that was on a meaningless 3-ball by Green in the final minute.
- Another key in the second half was the heels did a much better job with the ball. After committing 12 turnovers in the first half, they had just 6 in the second 20 minutes. And most of those were deadball turnovers, in other words, Tech couldn’t turn them into transition opportunities.
- Expect to see more teams go zone against the Hokies, who only have one outside threat – Delaney. Hudson was 0 for 6 from behind the arc tonight.
- The good news it VT looked good in their 2-3 zone tonight in the second half. They really limited the heels’ points in the paint in it. This should help against the bigs other ACC teams have. The problem is Graves and Drew suddenly got hot from the outside. That’s the breaks. Tech dared the heels to hit outside shots and that is the lesser of unc’s evils, and considering they started 0 of 11 from deep, it was the way to go.
- unc seemed to have a power play against VT with Delaney in there on defense. You have to love Malcolm for gutting it out when his ankle clearly was not 100%, but he simply could not guard guys one-on-one tonight. His ability to back-peddle or move laterally was limited, and unc guards were blowing by him and Tech did not do a good job of helping and rotating. The result was some easy buckets by Strickland or dishes to Davis when Tech did help but didn’t rotate elsewhere. The zone seemed to Malcolm by limiting what he had to do on defense.
- Delaney had more than half of the VT first half points (20 of 38).
- Superstars can step up in big games, even when facing bigger guys. Jeff Allen did not step up on offense tonight. I’d say he did a very good job on defense for the most part, and committed just two fouls, but Tech needed more of him on offense, especially when the heels took Delaney away in the second half.
- All in all, Tech played hard and were in this game for 34 minutes tonight. Considering Delaney wasn’t 100% and VT was on the road playing the defending champs, there are positives to take from this win. It was sad to see the offense go backwards tonight and become way too dependent on Malcolm again, but that happens. The Hokies know they can play with the heels, and therefore anyone else in the league after this. They just need to do it for 40 minutes next time. Wednesday is a HUGE game for the Hokies, who cannot afford to drop home games, especially against teams on par with them. Let’s make the Cassell rock!
- Finally, we had a great turnout at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon (Arlington) last night! Thanks to everyone that came and took advantage of the wing and drink deals!