Posted on 12 January 2015.
The first meeting in the ACC between VT and louisville went a lot like the last 9 meeting as Metro Conference enemies — with louisville winning. On Tuesday #6 louisville boat raced the Hokies 78-63 (it wasn’t anywhere near that close — VT closed the game on a 15-4 run over the final 5 minutes after louisville pulled their regulars). The Hokies trailed by as many as 29 in the 2nd half before Pitino called off the dogs. Tech did cover the spread (of 23) and are now 2-1 in ACC play against the odds!
Score Trend at each Media Timeout
Say good bye to Tech having a winning record, likely for the rest of the season. It was louisville’s 3-point shooting that did in the Hokies. The cards shot 50% from deep (6/12) in the first half, matching their normal number of makes for the game. They finished 10/25 (40%) and a lot of those misses were at the end with scrubs in, so it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The louisville cardinals used a dominant opening 7 minutes of the game and final 3 minutes of the half to pound the Hokies into submission at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. But it may have been a Pyrrhic victory for the cards as former Virginia Tech signee and Player of the Year candidate Montrezl Harrell left the game with 10 minutes to go with a leg injury and duke looming on the schedule this weekend.
Harrell had 11 points for the cards (8 after halftime), and he scored his first career points for the Hokies! Montrezl accidentally tipped in a VT miss with 11 minutes to go in the game.
louisville had a balanced attack with 4 guys in double digits — Rozier with 16, Blackshear with 15, and Harrell and Mathiang with 11.
The Hokies shot just 37% from the field, 10% below their average, and were absolutely intimidated by the bigger/stronger/better cards inside (especially with Joey van Zegeren still suspended). Tech, after starting out poorly from behind the arc, finished 8/19 from deep (42% — right around their season average). But VT was just 14/41 inside the 3-point line (34%). louisville had 8 blocks on the game and exposed Tech’s lack of midrange game (runners, pull-ups, etc.).
The Hokies were led by Adam Smith with 19 (5/7 on 3-pointers), 15 from Justin Bibbs (he’s scored 62 points in 3 ACC games), and 14 from Ahmed Hill. No other Hokie had more than 6 points. Smith and Bibbs were 13/24 from the field (54%), the rest of the team was 9/36 (25%). Although Satchel Pierce did have a decent effort with 6 points (3/5 FGs), 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The cards jumped out to a 17-2 lead in the first 7 minutes, hitting 4/6 three-pointers to open the contest. Keep in mind louisville was 12th in the league in 3-point percentage at under 30%, but this shouldn’t surprise you. Tech chose to collapse given their extreme lack of size and dared the cards to hit from deep… and they did.
The Hokies held their own over the next 10 minutes, outscoring the cards 22-16 and closing the gap to 33-24. Adam Smith hit 3 LOOOOONG 3-pointers to fuel the Tech charge, and surprisingly, the Hokies had 9 second chance points in the first 17 minutes (more than the cards).
But, the Hokies closed the half much like they started it — like lambs. louisville closed the half on a 10-0 run to go up 43-24 at the break and put the game on ice (well, syracuse was up 19 at the half, but this isn’t syracuse).
And that was with Tech handling the ball/pressure well. They had just 5 turnovers at the break and 8 for the game, an incredible number. louisville, who average over 10 steals per game to lead the league, had just 2 in the first half and 3 for the game. But Tech seemed afraid to attack the rim (for good reason) and simply don’t have guys that can hit runners or pull up jumpers as mentioned. That has to change this offseason.
The 2nd half didn’t start any better — louisville saw their 10-0 run to end the first half and raised it with an 8-0 run to start the 2nd half over the first 3+ minutes, for an 18-0 run over 6 minutes overall and put the cards up 51-24, and the rest of the game was pretty much garbage time.
That said, I liked the Hokies effort. They kept playing hard the rest of the way, even as the cards went deep in their bench. Tech needs the experience and needs to continue to build up their endurance in case they ever are close at the end of a game. Bibbs had a great effort to win a 50/50 ball with 1:45 to go and Hill made a hustle play to get a block with 1:30 to go. That’s what you want to see — guys not putting their heads down, but instead battling until the end.
Two stunning stats were 1) Tech shot 17 free throws (11/17) compared to just 7 for the cards (6/7). But that shows: a) Tech wasn’t contesting shots in the paint, and b) the cards were wide open from deep and had no need to attack the rim. And 2) Tech had 14 offensive rebounds compared to just 13 for louisville, though that is misleading as the cards had a higher offensive rebounding % than VT (41% for louisville to 34% for VT).
The cards came in 4th in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (points allowed per possession) and they shut down Tech for the most part until late. Thanks to Tech’s late run, they did average more than 1 point per possession (63 points in 62 possessions), which is slightly below average but great against a cards team that averages just .85 points per possession (though again, the garbage time at the end helped skew that).
The Hokies must figure out a way to start and end halves better. Game after game they did themselves in a hole, then battle back as the other team relaxes, only to get punched in the face again before the break.
WHO THE HECK IS THAT GUY KILLING US?
This is something you likely mutter (or yell) every Tech game. Last week at florida state it was Robbie Berwick who went for 13 points after not scoring in his previous 4 games (and having a previous season high of 11).
Tonight, it was 6’10” Mangok Mathiang. He came in averaging just 2.3 PPG and had scored just 2 total points in his last 92 minutes of play over the last 5 games!!! So what did he do against the Hokies? He scored 10 points in the first 12 and a half minutes of the game (already his season high at that point and just 3rd game in double digits of his career) against the vertically challenged Hokies. Part of the problem was the interesting defense Tech opened up in. Mangok finished with 11 on 5/7 field goals and with 8 rebounds, matching Harrell’s 11 points and 8 boards.
Satchel Pierce got his first career start and Tech opened in a 1-2-2 zone… with Pierce at the point. Yes, you read that right. Our 7-footer, our online big on the court, was at the top of the zone and guys like 6’5″ Ahmed Hill and 6’4″ Will Johnston on the baseline. Pierce would slide down as the ball was fed inside, but often too late leading to Mathiang’s big start. The Hokies played a more traditional 2-3 zone when Shane Henry was Tech’s “big”.
I THOUGH [INSERT OPPONENT] STUNK AT 3S? THEY ARE MAKING EVERYTHING!
fsu, a 26% 3-point shooting team, hit 8/16 from deep (including 7/10 in the first half).
Tonight, louisville, hitting 29.6% of their 3s, hit 6/12 in the first half and 2/3 to start the 2nd half (that’s 8/15 or 53% for you non-math majors). The cards only averaged 6 makes per game — they had that at the half! louisville finished 10/25 (40%), but like the fsu game, the % fell at the end after the outcome was settled.
This was the first meeting between the former Metro Conference foes since the league transitioned to become Conference USA after the 1995 season (and VT was left behind to go to the A-10 in large part because of louisville).
The Hokies are now 8-29 all time against louisville and have lost 10 in a row to the cards dating back to the 1990-91 season when Tech swept the cards. Tech has lost 21 of 23 to louisville.
Next up for the Hokies is a trip to Chapel Hill to face #13 unc on Sunday night.
Spread: louisville by 23
Note: TheACC.com is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t updated conference stats in a week, so I don’t have the team stats breakdown…
The Hokies embark on a brutal four game stretch starting Tuesday night. They play at #6 louisville, at #15 unc (Sunday night), home vs #12 notre dame (next Thursday), and home vs #2 uva (Sunday the 25th).
I would have said this could be a letdown game for the #6 cardinals considering they played at unc Saturday and have duke at home this weekend… but that’s probably not going to be the case after Pitino’s team blew a 13-point lead with under 9 minutes to go and lost 72-71 to unc in a match-up of Tech’s next two opponents (louisville’s only other loss was to #1 k-y kentucky). I’m sure Pitino will have the troops fired up coming off their 2nd loss of the season.
It will be interesting to see how the Hokies respond to the aggressive louisville defense. After a solid half of basketball at wvu, Tech folded like a lawn chair in the 2nd half, wilting under the pressure. Expect the cards to follow the ‘neers recipe and press the Hokies as soon as they get off the bus. The Baby Birds will need to limit turnovers as much as possible to avoid getting embarrassed on Tuesday. Tech committed 8 back court turnovers versus wvu by my count against the press, leading to several easy points. Considering louisville leads the ACC in steals at 10.6 per game, that’s not a good omen.
I haven’t heard anything about the return of Joey van Zegeren. Based on that, it only seems fair that louisville should sit Montrezl Harrell. The one-time VT signee (yes, signee) was released from his scholarship after Greenberg was fired. He wasn’t allowed to sign with an ACC school… and since louisville wasn’t accepted to the ACC yet he went there, and here we are. Dagger.
Harrell’s full skill set will undoubtedly be on display… think we could use a 6’8″, 240 lbs big man who averages 15.5 PPG and 9.0 rebounds? Nah.
Harrell, who was a Preseason National Player of the Year candidate, isn’t even the cards leading scorer (and he’s only scored 15 total points in louisville’s last 2 games but I fully expect a huge night against Tech’s inexperienced, undersized lineup). #0 Terry Rozier is pouring in 17.5 PPG for the cards and even gets 5.6 RPG despite being just 6’1″. Rozier has scored at least 9 points in every game this year, and had 25 at unc Saturday. [I would say here he’s just a 30% 3-point shooter who is 1/12 from deep the last 2 games, but how many of those have torched VT over the years? So I’m just going to move on.]
So what does louisville do well? Hmm. I guess I’d have to say almost everything. Check out these numbers:
- #50 in the nation in offensive efficiency — VT is #169
- #3 in the defensive efficiency (and #1 in the ACC just ahead of uva) — VT is #209
- They are 4th in the ACC in PPG and #2 in Opponents’ PPG
- They are #1 in the ACC in steals
- #1 in turnover margin
Their only weaknesses are they are not a good 3-point shooting team (30% — 10th in the league while VT is #2 at 40.5%) or a free throw shooting team (obviously Tech can’t throw stones here — the cards hit 66% for 12th in the league, VT is dead last at 61%). But, missed 3s often create offensive rebound opportunities, and louisville has 90 more offensive rebounds than VT on the year despite playing just one more game.
I fully expect Tech to get beaten… badly. Will it be a Bear Fight loss? I would guess it will be given Tech’s trouble with wvu’s aggressive defense (and vcu last year though Tech is a much different team) and the fact louisville gets a lot of steals.
louisville does not play an extremely fast tempo like a vmi or unc (even wvu is 26th in tempo –who’d have thought you’d see that from a Huggins team). Tech must value possessions, which will in turn slow down the cards and limit their fast break points. But even if that happens, who do the Hokies have that can stop Harrell inside? That’s why the outlook looks bleak.
RealTimeRPI.com predicts an 80-55 win for louisville.