Last night the Hokies earned their third conference win of the season. The last two seasons they finished conference play with only two wins. It is the quickest start to conference play since the 2008-09 season and to many in Blacksburg seems like the true start of the Buzz Williams era. The teams progression every single game is visible and although it is too early to predict how the seasons will pan out, the potential of this team has been proven.
Performances of the Night
Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs had breakout games last night. The former an undersized true freshman point guard and the latter a highly touted freshman a year ago with a slower than expected start to his sophomore campaign. Although they both had career scoring nights (Robinson with 17 and Bibbs with 32), the most impressive part was how aggressive and confident they were. The undersized Robinson attacked the basket again and again beating defenders off the dribble and showing outstanding body control around the rim often making the tough shot, drawing a foul, or finding an open teammate. His reputation as a true point guard showed last night and will be needed for the remainder of the season. Bibbs had an impressive freshman campaign in non conference play and after returning from a concussion in conference play was never the same.
This year held high expectations for the sophomore as he was a productive true freshman and played in the U19 World Championship. He came out this year firing from beyond the arc boasting a 3-pt percentage of over 60% for much of the season and is still at 56% through 17 games. However, he was not finding as much success at the rim and because of this teams started treating him as a one dimensional player. Last night he was out to prove everybody wrong as most of his points came from inside the arc and he repeatedly took it strong to the paint and finished at the rim. This type of aggressiveness is something that is all too common among the elite of the ACC and is refreshing to see from young Hokies early in conference play.
I would be remiss if I did not address 6’7 PF Zach LeDay going 4-4 from beyond the arc after going 3-4 two games ago against UVA. I will admit I held my breath against UVA when he started shooting because his shooting form looks to be the equivalent of Charles Barkley’s golf swing. However, I must give him credit as he has now proven himself as a stretch four which is invaluable now that he is realizing how inhibiting his size can be around the rim against the elite bigs of the ACC.
I am not sure what happened in the one hour and forty five minute team meeting after the West Virginia game, but I can only assume they talked a little bit about turnovers. After giving the ball up 22 times in that contest, the Hokies have only given it up 18 times combined in their three wins since and forced a combined 42 turnovers. This has without a doubt been a key to the success of this team through four conference games.
If there is one reason Tech won this game, it would have to be free throws. The Hokies went 29-35(82.9%) from the line for the best percentage of the season. Early on they were nearly perfect and missed three crucial free throws at the end of the game, but overall a fantastic night from the stripe and something that needs to be a staple for this team especially with their ability to get to the line.
Finally, the Hokies were out rebounded yet again. Freshman phenom Chris Clarke’s injury does not help, but Buzz will need one of the young big men to step up so he does not have to play four guards for the second seasons in a row. Clarke is out indefinitely with a foot injury and Williams is anxiously awaiting the return of his 10.5ppg and 7.4rpg.
The Hokies will go to Georgia Tech Saturday to try and tie the quick conference start of the 2008-09 team.