There was nothing wrong with the way Virginia Tech shot the ball Thursday night.
It’s simply that they didn’t shoot it enough.
The Hokies had a better percentage from the field than the Wisconsin Badgers, but took 11 fewer attempts, a big reason they are headed home after an 84-74 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center.
Virginia Tech shot 23 of 49 from the field (46.9 percent), 7 of 17 from three-point range (41.2 percent) and 21 of 26 from the free-throw line (80.8 percent). Take away some desperation misses at the end, and those percentages look even better. The problem was, Virginia Tech allowed too many attempts on the other end.
Wisconsin went 26 of 60 from the floor (43.3 percent), but attempted 31 three-pointers, hitting 13 of them, including eight from Bronson Koenig.
Virginia Tech came into Thursday’s game at a severe disadvantage in terms of size, experience and depth. Coach Buzz Williams uses just a seven-man rotation, so any injury – like when senior leader Seth Allen had to sit out for 8 minutes of the first half because of a problem with his foot – could spell big trouble.
"I got beat up a little bit, but I was good in the second half," Allen said.
Virginia Tech, which made its first appearance in the tournament in a decade, didn’t look nervous going against a team that has made the Sweet 16 in each of the past two years. The Badgers opened a seven-point lead early in the second half and looked to be on the verge of breaking things open, but the Hokies hung tough all night.
Redshirt junior Ty Outlaw, who played all 40 minutes for the first time in his career, buried a three-pointer from the left wing that cut Wisconsin’s lead to 39-35. Outlaw, who sat out all of last season with a heart ailment, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, going 4 of 5 from the field in the first half.
Justin Bibbs chipped in eight points, all of which came on two four-point plays – when’s the last time, if ever, that’s happened?
Allen, who selflessly comes off the bench along with fellow senior leader Zach LeDay, gutted through his injury to finish with 10 points and a game-high six assists. He sliced and diced his way through the lane time and again, either getting to the line or setting up teammates.
LeDay was a force around the basket, finishing with 23 points before fouling out with just over 20 seconds remaining.
The Hokies cut their defict to one point on five different occasions in the second half, but never could get the go-ahead or tying basket when they were down two or three.
"You're not really thinking about that. You're just thinking about getting stops and playing as hard as you can," LeDay said. "I know I wasn't looking at the score, I was just out there playing as hard as I could."
The size advantage the Badgers enjoyed showed up on the glass, as Wisconsin enjoyed a 37-25 rebounding edge.
"We went out there, we fought as hard as we could," LeDay said. "We gave it our all."