By Ken Cross
The Virginia Tech Hokies shot 51 percent from the field in Wednesday night’s 83-75 win over Wake Forest as they were able to sustain a return to consistency after shooting 52.6 percent in beating Pittsburgh over the weekend. This provided a total relief to coach Buzz Williams after the squad shot a combined 35 percent in back-to-back losses to more defensive oriented squads in Syracuse and Virginia to start the ACC conference schedule.
“I think it looks pretty obvious when we make shots,” said Williams, “We did a good job of getting stops. Like any team in college basketball, when you get stops, you have more opportunities to play in transition. I thought we created more in transition in the first half than we have in a while, particularly in league play and that was a product of getting stops.
Virginia Tech broke open an 11-1 lead immediately as the Hokies’ guards found leading scorers Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs in transition as they combined for three quick triples which highlight Tech’s 12 treys on the evening. They combined for eight of those as Hill led with five and led all scorers with 21 as Bibbs netted 18.
Both players had struggled mightily to open the ACC part of the schedule. Hill was only 3-of-14 with two triples in the two losses to the Orange and the Cavaliers and bounced back for a 15 points in the win over Pitt. Still, he had only three three-point makes coming into Wednesday’s game.
“I don’t know which shots that Med and Bibbs have shot that they have missed that I would characterize as a bad shot,” explained Williams, “There’s 351 division one teams in the country and all of them have 13 full scholarships and Ahmed Hill is sixth in the country in effective field goal percentage. I have never coached a guard that is even in that realm.”
• Five #Hokies in double-digits 🔥
• 20 assists on 29 made FGs 👏
• 12 triples made by 5 shooters 👌
— VT Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) January 11, 2018
Bibbs had struggled throughout conference play as well as he was 7-of-29 from the field in the first three game with his only two triples coming against Syracuse while going 0-for-8 vs. Virginia and Pitt combined.
“I think Bibbs, in the last 20 years at Virginia Tech, he is number three in three point field goal percentage and those are two guys that I am very thankful to have on our team.”
Living in a time in sports where fans and media perceive that you are only as good as your last game, confidence can be a problem for any player when he or she continually hears the negative. Williams obviously knows his players and the art of fundamental basketball. There was obviously no rush to judgement with a senior in Bibbs and a red-shirt junior in Hill. It’s just about getting players to turn to the next page and move forward. The key is getting them to do this once they struggle in any aspect of the game.
“I have never as a head coach adjusted a player’s shot. I believe true confidence can only come from your work and I believe our guys work hard and that doesn’t mean you ware going to make every shot. Our turnover rate has been incredibly high in most games – too high – and when you don’t make shots, that only compounds the problem.”
Virginia Tech’s high octane offense is still averaging as 86 ppg. while the Hojies shoot it at a 52.6 percent clip and over 40 percent from three. There are peaks and valleys in a season and in a situation like this with two incredibly experienced and savvy players, you move forward to the next game.
“We turned it over nine percent of the time against Pitt and today, we turned it over 15 percent of the time,” noted Williams, “That obviously helps and I think another piece to that is words we use, “playing for one another” and we had 20 assists against Pitt and 20 assists on 29 baskets today.”
Williams’ analysis proved true after the Hokies had a combined 20 assists vs. 29 turnovers against the Orange and the Wahoos.
“That probably means the ball is moving and it means the defense is in rotation and it probably means that there are some baskets in transition and all of those things, when you have multiple guys on the floor that can shoot, all of those things are beneficial,” noted Williams.