NCAA Men's Basketball

No. 13 Virginia Tech looks to bounce back vs. Central Connecticut

Virginia Tech played its first true road game of the season on Tuesday against Penn State and did not handle it well. On Saturday afternoon, the 13th-ranked Hokies return home to more comfortable surroundings for a game against Central Connecticut State.

The Hokies had almost as many turnovers (nine) as field goals made (10) in the second half against the Nittany Lions. They committed three turnovers in the final three minutes and did not hit a shot from the field in the final 3:28, scoring only two points during that span on two free throws.

Just a small pinch of improved ball-handling could have made a difference for the Hokies, who shot a modest 44 percent from the field. Yet the parade of mistakes down the stretch produced a 63-62 loss to the Nittany Lions.

Penn State focused its defensive plan on bothering Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson. He hit 6 of 12 shots for 19 points, but his passing and ball-handling were substandard, which he acknowledged after the game.

"It's on me," Robinson said. "I had one assist, six turnovers. I'll take the blame. Me being the head of the train, having six turnovers isn't good."

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said of Robinson, "We had to slow him down in the second half. We did a good job of that."

Virginia Tech's performance could be described as ragged and uneven. Part of the disjointed display came from the Hokies' short bench. Only four Hokies scored.

Starting guard Ahmed Hill went 0 of 6 from the field and not enough players were able to pick up the slack.

Four Virginia Tech players logged at least 36 minutes and appeared taxed by the end. Hokies coach Buzz Williams acknowledged that reality.

"Those guys are a third of your age, and half of my age," Williams said. "Those guys love to play. It's the first time we've played seven guys. We've played eight or nine the first five games."

Virginia Tech will look for increased production and minutes from more players to ease the core of the lineup through the season. That process begins anew against Central Connecticut State.

The Blue Devils (4-4) are trying to find their way. They began the season with guarded optimism under coach Donyell Marshall, a former star player at the University of Connecticut under Jim Calhoun in the 1990s.

"The biggest thing we took away from last year was the (lack) of togetherness," Central Connecticut junior forward Tyler Kohl said. "Last year, we weren't really a team. We had a lot of different cliques, a lot of different people that did their own thing.

"But with coach Marshall and the new guys coming in, we're more together. The culture is different. Everybody likes each other and hangs out a lot of the court and that translates on the court."

Central Connecticut State has alternated wins and losses in its first eight games of the season, winning its first game and losing its second. If the pattern continues, the Blue Devils will win this game, their ninth of the season.

Updated November 30, 2018