Three Takeaways From Virginia Tech Basketball’s Loss To No. 10 Duke

Michael McDaniel

Three Takeaways from Virginia Tech’s Loss to Duke

Virginia Tech dropped its third-straight game on Friday night, losing 77-63 to the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils at Cassell Coliseum.Virginia Tech fought valiantly and dominated at points throughout the first-half, but Duke’s depth and maturity showed in the final 30 minutes as the Blue Devils outscored the Hokies by 17 points after the break.

It was the first home loss of the Mike Young era in Blacksburg, and there’s plenty to be learned moving forward.

Here are the three takeaways from the Hokies’ loss to Duke:

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 1. Wabissa Bede’s Offensive Game Continues to Improve

If there was one area where Virginia Tech junior guard Wabissa Bede needed to improve heading into 2019, it was his ability to produce as a scorer. With guards Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker moving on to the NBA and forward Kerry Blackshear transferring to Florida, offense was clearly going to be at a premium this season for Virginia Tech.

Bede has made a name for himself for the way he plays defense on the perimeter, as well as his ability to produce for his teammates. But Bede, who needed to become more of a threat offensively, has become more aggressive getting to the hoop thus far in his junior year. It’s fun to watch the progression.

The junior scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the talented Duke squad, marking the third time in the last four games he has scored in double-digits. We are witnessing Bede elevate himself as a true jack-of-all trades for the Hokies. He continues to create havoc and make life miserable for those who he has matched up against and now he’s producing offensively to add icing to the cake. It’s important to note one final stat that stands out when it comes to the Hokies’s point man. Young hammers ball security and will not accept sloppy turnovers and burned possessions. Bede has answered his coaches call and done an excellent job of taking care of the rock through nine games.

If Bede can continue his aggressive approach while simultaneously creating opportunities for others, he has a real opportunity to emerge as one of the top point guards in the ACC

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2. Virginia Tech’s Lack of Depth is Becoming an Issue

Friday night’s game against Duke marked the fifth-straight game in which Tech’s opponent has had the advantage in bench points. The Blue Devils held a 35-11 advantage when going away from their starters, highlighted by 29 points combined between Wendell Moore, Jordan Goldwire and Alex O’Connell. The smaller lineup off the bench proved to be the difference, as it cut Virginia Tech’s gameplan in two.

Tech feasted on the speed and athleticism of their smaller lineup against Duke’s bigs in the first half, but once Duke responded with a small lineup of their own (Jones, Moore, Goldwire, O’Connell, and White), the Blue Devils punched back in the second half.

Duke’s ability to play multiple types of lineups is a luxury that the Hokies simply don’t have right now. Tech’s youth and lack of size has been well-documented, but Mike Young’s squad also lacks proven depth off the bench. This is something that we’ll need to continue to monitor throughout ACC play, as many of the Hokies’ upcoming opponents can match-up in ways that other teams in the non-conference schedule simply couldn’t.

As this youthful group continues to develop chemistry and find a rhythm, the depth will become more proven and the roster will be better for it as a result. For now? The lack of depth is an issue that will need to be ironed out fast for the Hokies to right the ship in conference play.

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3. The Hokies Are Living and Dying by the Three 

Young loves the three-ball. He’s constantly reminding his players — from the starters to reserves — to trust their gut, don’t overthink and take the open shot from beyond the arc whenever its open.

“If you like it, let it rip,” Young said earlier this season about shooting the three.

Given the roster for the Hokies this season and the team’s lack of depth and size, the three-point ball can serve as the great equalizer. The Hokies made 10 threes against Michigan State, which proved to be the difference in the upset win over the Spartans. That performance came right after Tech set an ACC-record for threes in a game (21) against Delaware State.

That’s the good news. Now how about the bad?

The Hokies were a mediocre 8-for-21 in a blowout loss to Dayton a little over a week ago, and went 5-for-20 on Friday night against Duke. When the Blue Devils went on their scoring run in the second half to take control of the game, the Hokies couldn’t counter with made threes. Instead, Tech missed shot after shot, helping to fuel the run by the Blue Devils in the second half.

We saw the Hokies find success in an unexpected approach in the first-half against Duke. They weren’t hitting ridiculous stats from downtown but also weren’t even attempting many threes at all. Crisp passing, cutting and getting the ball to playmakers in the paint was working. It caught the Blue Devils off guard until they adjusted.

Can Virginia Tech take Friday’s first-half success down low and pair it with shooting the three to find a balanced approach? It will depend on the opponent and defense, but as we saw against Duke, the Hokies couldn’t find a groove once their approach was exposed.

This is who Virginia Tech will be this season for better or worse. Here’s hoping there’s more good nights than bad shooting it from deep.

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