December 30, 2014
Second half dooms Tech in loss to Mountaineers
By Jimmy Robertson
Virginia Tech (8-5) 302151
(17) West Virginia (12-1) 334982
  • WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W.Va. - 13,330
  • High Points: 10 - Satchel Pierce, Adam Smith
  • High Rebounds: 5 - Satchel Pierce

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Virginia Tech stayed with West Virginia for a half, but the 17th-ranked Mountaineers flexed their muscles in the second half and pulled away for a 82-51 victory over the Hokies on Tuesday at WVU Coliseum.

The loss left the Hokies at 8-5 on the season, while West Virginia avenged last season’s loss to Tech at Cassell Coliseum and moved to 12-1.

The Hokies only trailed 33-30 at halftime, but the Mountaineers opened the second half with a 15-4 run and never looked back. Gary Browne hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in the run, and West Virginia outscored the Hokies 49-21 in the second half.

“It just kind of snow-balled on us,” Tech’s Adam Smith said. “Turnovers and empty possessions. They capitalized on theirs. It’s tough to win when they get like 20 more shots than we did.

“Take nothing away from their press. It’s intense. They turn you over, but I think we could have handled it a little bit better. Some of the stuff, we had practice. We didn’t during the game, but it’s a learning experience.”

Tech finished the game with a season-high 25 turnovers, as the Hokies struggled against the Mountaineers’ pressure defense. The Mountaineers came into the game leading the nation in steals (159), steals per game (13.3) and turnover margin (11.2).

Tech’s 25 turnovers led to 37 West Virginia points.

“My responsibility is to help us improve and help us get better,” Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “We have some guys that are improving and are growing up, and sometimes it’s hard to grow up on national TV on the road against a top-20 team. But if you learn from that, hopefully, it expedites your growth. If you don’t learn from it, then we’ll continue to get the same test.

“This is not a class; this is a season. Like I told our team during the game, coaches watch the second half just like they watch the first half. If you think this is the only time someone is going to come after our a--, you’re wrong. They’re going to keep coming. At some point, we’re going to have to handle it the right way. If we don’t, they’re going to keep coming.”

Tech stayed in the game in the first half by shooting 55 percent from the floor. The Hokies sliced a nine-point deficit to three, 33-30 at the break. Smith scored 10 points, and the Hokies also got an unlikely contribution from freshman center Satchel Pierce, who scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor.

Smith, though, didn’t score in the second half, but he only took three shots. Pierce scored once and finished with 10 points. He hit 5-of-7 from the floor and grabbed five rebounds in 23 minutes. He had reached double figures in minutes in just four games all season coming into this one.

Justin Bibbs, who led the Hokies in scoring coming into the game (12.7 ppg) and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Week for last week, scored just four points and turned the ball over eight times. He did have four assists.

“It was difficult beating their pressure and staying in attack mode,” Bibbs said. “Our goal was to beat their pressure and attack, just like we did with VMI. It was the same defense, but stronger, and we didn’t do that. They got on a run, and we didn’t stop their run.”

The Hokies open ACC play this Saturday with a game against Syracuse at Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for noon.

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