The Virginia Tech Hokies had suffered 3 consecutive tough losses, all in single digits. Buzz Williams' squad was sick of losing, and they were ready to go into Pittsburgh and take down a reeling Panthers squad.
Sheldon Jeter would have none of that. After head coach Jamie Dixon put Jeter in the spotlight by starting him down low, the forward went off for a career high of 23 points. Pitt's bench did the rest as the Panthers were victorious, 90-71.
Virginia Tech was in the lead for only one minute, near the beginning of the game. Jeter scored 13 of Pittsburgh's first 17 points, and after the first 10 minutes, the game was getting out of hand for Va. Tech. Pittsburgh didn't need star Michael Young to carry the load tonight, but he did go 6 for 9 shooting for 13 points.
The key difference in the game was the bench scoring. The Hokies garnered 4 points from their bench, all from young post player Kerry Blackshear Jr. Pittsburgh attained a whopping 29 points from their bench, including 9 from sharpshooter Cameron Johnson. Ryan Luther also pounded the paint for 9 points.
What Pittsburgh did in the paint, Virginia Tech tried to match in the backcourt. Former Maryland transfer Seth Allen went ballistic, going a perfect 5 for 5 with the trey, ending up with a career high of 28 points. Jalen Hudson and Justin Bibbs also knocked down some triples, combining for 25 points.
However, the Fighting Gobblers could not balance that scoring with bench contributions and frontcourt power. Zach LeDay, the freshman phenom that has been a menace to paint protectors throughout the ACC, had an off night. Although the big man put up 12 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, he got into foul trouble, eventually fouling out. He was 5 for 13 shooting, and turned the ball over 3 times.
This has been a heartbreaking stretch for Virginia Tech, as the team that was once 4-1 in the ACC is now 4-5. A team that had NCAA Tournament aspirations after their upset of the Virginia Cavaliers now is fighting for an NIT bid. Their next matchup is at Syracuse on Tuesday, and they will need to get their bench and frontcourt back up to par in order to contend with the red hot Orange.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looks like it's back on track. Jamie Dixon showed a stroke of genius with his lineup changes, and the Panthers now look like a monstrous frontcourt team. With one of the deepest teams in the ACC, Pittsburgh should be confident in themselves going forward. The team is going into their toughest stretch of the season, matching up against Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina. They take on the Cavaliers next Saturday.