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Kenny Blackshear scored a season-high 29 points, Ahmed Hill added 14 and No. 22 Virginia Tech held off Pitt, 70-64, on Saturday.
“First of all, congratulations to Virginia Tech.” Said Pitt head coach Jeff Capel. “It was a hard- fought game on both sides of the floor. I am proud of our effort. I thought we fought and did some things to put ourselves in a position. When we cut it to two in the second half, we had a breakdown defensively where Kerry Blackshear hit a big three; he sized us up and hit a big three. Then we came down and didn’t score.”
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Blackshear overwhelmed the Panthers, making his first six field-goal attempts on his way to a nearly flawless performance that almost matched the career best he posted in a victory over Pitt last season. The junior made 8 of 9 shots from the field, including all three of his 3-point attempts, and went 10 of 11 from the free throw line in addition to grabbing nine rebounds.
“He is really good, and he has gotten better over his time there; you can tell he has put in a lot of work. I think he has had a fantastic season.” Capel said of Blackshear “When I think of our league and I think of post guys, I am not sure if there is a better one than him in the ACC, or at least not someone playing better than what he is doing. He can hurt you in so many ways. He is skilled, strong, he can score with his back to the basket, he can step away, so he is a very difficult guy to defend.”
The Hokies (20-5, 9-4 ACC) have won two straight following a two-game losing streak and fended off several surges by the Panthers.
Having Blackshear helped. He scored a career-high 31 on 12-of-16 shooting last year against Pitt and was even more efficient this time around. Jumpers. Putbacks. Layups. Dunks. He was effective from nearly start to finish no matter who the Panthers threw at him.
Though Pitt kept scrapping – at one point 6-3, 185-pound freshman Trey McGowens threw Blackshear to the floor as the two battled for a loose ball – the Panthers (12-14, 2-11) dropped their ninth straight.
“I mean, we are trying to stay positive.” Said Capel.
Xavier Johnson led Pitt with 18 points. Sidy N’Dir chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, but every time the Panthers appeared ready to make a push, the Hokies responded. When Johnson’s 3-pointer drew the Panthers within 48-46 with 7:28 to go in the second half, Virginia Tech knocked down three straight 3s of its own, including one by Blackshear to extend the advantage to 59-47.
We have to continue to work and get better together collectively as a group to understand the value and the importance of every possession, and how we need to have the concentration and
the focus every possession.” Said Capel “I thought we got a little bit closer today with that, but still not close enough to beat a really good team. They are a very good team.”
Pitt eventually got within 63-56 on a pair of free throws by Johnson with 1:58 remaining and created a turnover in the backcourt when N’Dir stepped in front of a pass. Panther guard Khameron Davis drove to the basket for a layup but the bucket was waved off when officials called Davis for a charge.
Blackshear immediately converted two free throws at the other end to make it 65-56, and Virginia Tech did just enough down the stretch to win their fourth consecutive meeting with the Panthers.
“They stepped up when we had the momentum to make plays like that. So, congratulations to them. Like I said, I thought we did some good things and put ourselves in a position, but it wasn’t good enough.”-Said Capel.
The problem for the Panthers isn’t effort. Pitt lacks the size to create any sort of offensive threat inside, allowing teams to play zone and force the Panthers to chuck it from deep. Defensively, there’s little they can do against a legitimate post presence. Blackshear got wherever he wanted to do whatever he wanted no matter how many different bodies the Panthers threw at him.
With 5 games left, the Panthers will continue to fight to end this losing streak beginning with their game at Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Their next home game is Wednesday Feb 20th in a rematch vs. Clemson.
“I am grateful and incredibly appreciative for our fans and their continued support, especially our students today. “Said Capel. “I really appreciate them standing by us. It created an amazing atmosphere once again, which we have had throughout the conference, and we are appreciative of that.”
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