Virginia Tech Basketball: 3 Things We Learned From The Loss to #5 Florida State
Virginia Tech lost its third-straight game, and fourth out of five on Saturday afternoon, falling to #5 Florida State 74-63 in front of a packed house at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg.
The Hokies hung tough for the duration, getting themselves back into the game multiple times as the Seminoles tried to pull away. Tech fell down by as many as 16 in the second half, before fighting back down the stretch to get within striking distance.
However, issues that plagued the Hokies throughout the game were prominent down the stretch, leading to the 11-point victory for Florida State.
Here's what we learned from Tech's third-straight loss.
1. Tech's starting five didn't get the job done offensively
Virginia Tech's offense has been hard to come by all year, but on Saturday in particular, the starting five was particularly bad.
Let's start with this: Tyrece Radford did what he could. He's developed into the Hokies' most consistent player on both ends of the floor. Radford finished with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, while adding six rebounds.
Landers Nolley was rough around the edges once again (more on that in a minute), but he scored 14 points, second to only Radford.
Tech's other three starters were Nahiem Alleyne, Wabissa Bede, and P.J. Horne. That trio was particularly uninspiring on the offensive end, finishing with 11 points combined on 4-for-18 shooting from the floor.
While Virginia Tech's offensive struggles throughout the season have been largely driven by youth getting their first taste of college basketball, the Hokies certainly need more out of their veterans in Bede and Horne.
Neither player has been seen historically as strong offensive players, but even so, Tech needs more from their two veteran players in order to get things moving back in the right direction.
2. Jalen Cone needs more minutes
Coach Mike Young has said in the past that every time Jalen Cone shoots, he thinks it's going in.
On a team desperate for offense, the time has come for Mike Young to give Cone more minutes.
While Young thinks highly of Cone's offense, he has expressed concern over Cone's ability to defend, which is a staple of playing in Young's system. Many are calling for Cone to begin getting the nod over Bede in the starting five, but even if you don't believe that Cone should start, he should at the very least be playing more than he has recently.
Since Cone scored 18 points to key the Hokies in a 79-77 win over North Carolina on January 22nd, he has only averaged a shade over 16 minutes per game in the next three contests. Cone played only 12 minutes on Saturday against Florida State, which was the fewest amount of minutes that he has played since January 4th against Virginia.
Tech has lost four out of five, and they need a shake-up. Even if Young wants to keep his starting five the same as its been, changing the rotation to insert more offense at times throughout the game likely wouldn't hurt.
3. Landers Nolley continues to struggle
I received some reaction to a piece I wrote about Landers Nolley on Friday that perhaps I'm being too hard on him.
But Nolley has the highest ceiling of any player on Tech's roster, and his potential is limitless. As such, he's under the microscope.
It was another inefficient performance by Nolley on Saturday, as it's clear that he's pressing as Virginia Tech searches for offensive production. He is one of the few players on Tech's roster who has the ability to play in isolation and create his own shot. With the Hokies struggling to put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis, Nolley has taken it upon himself to try to steer the offense back in the right direction.
This approach has produced mixed results throughout the season, but recently it's done more harm than good. Nolley finished the game on Saturday with 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 2-for-8 from three with three turnovers. In addition, as nearly an 80% shooter from the free throw line, he only took one trip to the charity stripe, making both attempts.
To be clear, it's not that Nolley has been terrible, he's just been inefficient at points throughout ACC play. The Hokies need his offense to click desperately, and he knows it.
With that being said, he needs to be more selective with finding his own shot, as it has driven Tech to more bad possessions of late than good ones. He's not the sole reason why the Hokies haven't played well recently, but his play has been a driver.
He and his teammates need to conjure up something positive, and need to do it quickly, as time is running out for the Hokies to try to make their NCAA Tournament case.