Christmas might be over, but it appears that the Hokies wanted to extend the season of giving. Virginia Tech (13-6, 3-3 ACC) gift wrapped an easy victory to Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3 ACC), losing 72-57.
Virginia Tech’s 18 turnovers headline a disappointing performance which kept the Hokies in the middle of the pack of the ACC, failing to solidify itself as a top ACC team.
Tonight’s game had “trap game” written all over it. Georgia Tech had a mediocre record and checked in with an RPI of 151. The game was on the road against a team that knew it was much better than its record indicated. Georgia Tech had the hot hand shooting and made the most of the opportunities handed to them.
Georgia Tech used this game to show the ACC that they are not going to roll over this season. Iman Shumpert and Brian Oliver had outstanding games to break away from Virginia Tech in the second half.
Virginia Tech led by three points at halftime, but seemed to think the game was over after the first 20-minutes. The Hokies were outscored 36-18 in the second half, and the score is being generous to how outmatched the Hokies were.
Part of Virginia Tech’s success in the first half was its success in causing turnovers and Erick Green’s hot start.
Green scored nine points in the opening eight-minutes of play. Unfortunately, Green’s hand went extremely cold—he finished with nine points on 3-for-15 shooting.
On the flip side, Malcolm Delaney didn’t put together his best game. His 3-for-11 shooting to finish with just eight points—a season low, and just his third time being held under double-digits—was not his only problem. Delaney also finished the game with eight turnovers and had a front row seat to watch Shumpert and Oliver dominate his team.
Shumpert highlighted the night with a triple-double and a solid defensive performance against Green and Delaney. Shumpert finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. To round out his performance, he had seven steals and only one turnover. His performance haunted the Hokies all night as they struggled to stop him.
Oliver benefited the most from Shumpert’s 11 assists. The Georgia Tech swingman finished the game with 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 4-for-9 from behind-the-arc.
The Hokies started the game shaky, but appeared to settle down as they were forcing all the turnovers and their ball movement opened up easy looks for Jeff Allen and Victor Davila in the paint. Georgia Tech was able to adjust and quickly turned the tables on Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech chose to play the 2-3 zone defense the entire game and dared Georgia Tech’s guards to beat them. Seth Greenburg woke up a sleeping giant and paid for it. The Hokies also got away from the game plan to dominate the game in the paint.
Once Georgia Tech started to knock down some three-point shots, the intensity on the defensive side of the ball began to match to offensive mentality—and Virginia Tech failed to match it.
With a bench playing with more and more confidence, it was surprising not to see Greenburg call upon Tyron Garland or Jarrell Eddie at all during the game. There was no chemistry on offense and it was only a matter of time until Georgia Tech pulled away.
Virginia Tech lost a game it probably can’t afford to lose at this point in the season and is on an even shorter leash to the NCAA tournament committee. With that said, there are plenty of statement games left on the schedule to keep them in the conversation. Most notably are: Feb. 13 rematch against Georgia Tech, Feb. 15 against Maryland and the big matchup Feb. 26 against #3 Duke. Of course the most important game on the schedule is the next game—Sunday night against Miami.
Seth Greenburg needs to figure out how much he really trusts his bench and when to stick with the zone defense and when to ditch it in a game in order for his team to make a solid run at the NCAA tournament. His team’s next audition is against Miami and a better day shooting the ball is needed to get the team back on track.