January 31, 2015
Balanced attack not enough to lift Tech past Wake Forest
By Jimmy Robertson
Virginia Tech (9-12, 1-7 ACC) 284270
Wake Forest (10-12, 2-7 ACC) 324173
  • Winston-Salem, N.C. - LJVM Coliseum - 11,752
  • High Points: 12 - Adam Smith
  • High Rebounds: 6 - Christian Beyer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Virginia Tech had six players in double figures, but the Hokies couldn’t come up with the big basket in the final moments and fell 73-70 to Wake Forest in an ACC game played Saturday afternoon at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The loss left Tech at 9-12 overall, 1-7 in the ACC. Wake Forest moved to 10-12 overall, 2-7 in league play and snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Hokies did a lot of positive things in this one – they shot a respectable 43.1 percent, made 85 percent of their free throws and had more assists than turnovers. But Wake Forest made some big shots down the stretch to send the Hokies to their sixth loss this season by three points or less. Tech is now 2-6 in those games decided by that scoring margin.

“We’ve played 21 games, and eight of them have been one-possession games,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “That is brutal.”

“We always played really hard, like our life depends upon it, in the second half,” said Justin Bibbs, who returned to the court for the first time in four games (concussion). “But in the first half, we don’t come out and try to impose our will on teams. We’re too laid back. I think that’s our biggest issue.”

Tech appeared to be heading toward another win, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to take a 65-64 lead on Christian Beyer’s basket with 1:50 remaining – its’ only lead of the second half. But Mitchell Wilbekin responded by hitting a 3-pointer with 1:34 to go to give the Demon Deacons a 67-65 lead.

Two Bibbs free throws with 1:18 left tied the game, but Wake Forest re-took the lead on a Devin Thomas layup with 59 seconds remaining, and the Demon Deacons never trailed again.

The Hokies trailed 71-67 after Wilbekin made two free throws with 32 seconds remaining in the game, but they sliced the lead to 71-70 on an Adam Smith 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

Forced then to foul, the Hokies put Madison Jones on the free-throw line with 11.1 seconds remaining, and Jones made both to give the Demon Deacons a 73-70 lead. Wake Forest then called its final timeout to set up its defense.

The Hokies came down and got the ball to Bibbs, who had a good look from the corner. Bibbs misfired on the 3-point attempt, but the ball went out of bounds off a Wake Forest player 0.4 seconds to go, giving the Hokies a final opportunity.

“It felt great,” Bibbs said of the shot. “I thought it was in.”

“That was the shot we wanted,” Williams said. “I thought it was very well executed. Then the possession before that was when Adam shot hit uncontested 3. I would take those shots again right now.”

Tech never got another look. Devin Wilson threw the ball in to Ahmed Hill, who launched a shot that didn’t go in, but officials waved off the shot anyway, saying Hill shot it after the final buzzer sounded.

Smith, coming off a 26-point performance in the Hokies’ win on Tuesday against Pittsburgh, led the team again, scoring 12 points. But he made just 4 of 11 from the floor, including a couple of 3-pointers.

Wilson and Hill each scored 11 points, and Hill hit three 3-pointers. The Hokies drained nine 3-pointers in the game and shot 43.1 percent from the floor overall.

In his return to the court, Bibbs played 20 minutes and scored 10 points, hitting 3 of 7, including a 3-pointer.

“I felt good,” Bibbs said. “Obviously, you can probably tell I’m out of shape, but I feel good. I didn’t really expect to play at all. Coach never talked about it until going into the locker room [after pregame warm-ups]. He told me he was going to need me for defense, so I just prepared for getting rebounds and playing defense, stuff like that.

“I haven’t really practiced full contact, so this was my first full contact. I thought I played good. Obviously, coming off that win and coming off Virginia, we played really good offensively, so I didn’t want to do too much. I just tried to fit in.”

Malik Müller and Beyer each added 10 points. The last time six Tech players scored in double figures was in January of 2011 also against Wake Forest.

“It’s encouraging,” Williams said. “I’m not trying to be Pollyanna. We got beat and we deserved to get beat. Obviously, having Bibbs out there and Bibbs can score, and that takes the pressure off some of those other guys. But some of those other guys have improved since Bibbs has been out, so we have to make sure the chemistry stays where it is, and I anticipated that it will.”

Codi Miller-McIntyre paced the Demon Deacons with 19 points, making all seven of his shot attempts. The junior has averaged 14.5 points and 5.3 assists per game in four meetings against Tech.

Wake Forest shot 45.5 percent from the floor – the best by a Tech opponent since West Virginia shot 46.5 percent on Dec. 30, a span of seven games.

The Hokies continue ACC action on Tuesday night when they take on Syracuse in Syracuse, New York. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m.

For updates on Virginia Tech men's basketball, follow the Hokies on Twitter

For updates on the Hokies, follow Jimmy Robertson on Twitter

HokieSports Shop