When he last saw his team play before Tuesday night, Virginia Tech coach Mike Young watched a determined group scratch and claw its way to an overtime win at Miami – a prime example of his players taking a punch and persevering.
That was 17 days earlier, before coronavirus quarantining took its toll, resulting in three games being postponed and No. 16 Virginia Tech’s rhythm and stamina vanishing. It was evident in Virginia Tech’s 69-53 loss to Georgia Tech, which took advantage of the Hokies’ lack of stamina after a long break.
Instead of celebrating Tyrece Radford’s return to the court for the first time since he was suspended from the team Jan. 25 after being charged with DUI and a weapons charge, Virginia Tech’s resumption of play ended up looking like how so many other first games back from quarantine have turned out for ACC programs that have experienced similar lengthy layoffs.
“I thought for the first time in recent memory – or golly day, it’s been a long time – I thought we lost our edge a little bit,” Young said. “I thought we got hit in the stomach and we stepped away from it, and that is unlike our team. I told our team this, I think win, lose or draw, we had to get back on the floor. We had to play. We had to compete.”
With just one game on its schedule in the next week – Saturday against Wake Forest, which is 13th in the ACC – Young will have plenty of time to address his team’s conditioning and shortcomings before Louisville comes next Wednesday to Blacksburg. He’ll have no shortage of issues to get corrected, but actually playing games could end up being the greatest salve of all for what ails Virginia Tech (14-5, 8-4 ACC), which is still third in the conference.
After committing 11 first-half turnovers leading to 13 points for Georgia Tech (12-8, 8-6), Virginia Tech looked gassed from the start of the second half.
Georgia Tech, which was led by Moses Wright’s 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the floor and 10 rebounds, made 52% of its field goal attempts for the game, but it raced away from a 24-24 halftime time by shooting 61.5% in the second half.
Shooting 41.3% from the floor, Virginia Tech saw Georgia Tech go on a 17-4 run in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second.
Virginia Tech, which was led by forward Keve Aluma’s 12 points on just 5 of 15 shooting from the floor and 14 rebounds, trimmed Georgia Tech’s lead to 48-42 with 7:20 left when Radford, who had 11 points, made a layup, got fouled and connected on the ensuing free throw, but it was as close as the Hokies would get.
“Just looking to the next game,” Aluma said. “We will be getting ready these next few days - getting ready for Wake.”
What we saw
1/4 u2666 Radford made 4 of 6 shots from the floor and seemed to be close to his typical form in a team-high 36 minutes. Though he was suspended nearly a month, he only sat out four games, but Young wasn’t concerned about what critics of his decision to bring Radford back had to say.
“I could care less,” Young said - who likely meant to say he “couldn’t” care less. “I’m going to do what I think is best in concert with the people that I work for (at Virginia Tech), and (I’m) thankful of their support. I love that kid, and I am so happy that he is back in a Virginia Tech uniform.”
1/4 u2666 After building a 19-8 rebounding cushion in the first half, Virginia Tech couldn’t sustain the edge on the boards the rest of the way. Georgia Tech had a 15-12 advantage in the second half.
1/4 u2666 Making 5 of 14 shots from 3-point range, Virginia Tech’s perimeter shooting was a non-factor for most of the game.
On Monday, Young indicated he was hopeful guard Jalen Cone could possibly be back as early as Tuesday night from an ankle injury he suffered in the Feb. 6 game at Miami. Cone didn’t play against Georgia Tech and was seen wearing a brace on his ankle while sitting out.
“I just think it’s just too early to give you a definitive answer,” Young said regarding Young’s prognosis. “It’s going to be a bit more down the road than I’d anticipated.”
Norm Wood, 757-247-4644, email@example.com