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2K Classic: A tempo-free look at the Saint Louis vs. Virginia Tech semifinal

What the numbers say about the Billikens’ victory

NCAA Basketball: 2K Classic-Virginia Tech vs Saint Louis Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Saint Louis punched a ticket to the 2K Classic championship game with a 77-71 victor over Virginia Tech on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The game saw the Billikens improve to 3-0, while the Hokies are now 2-1 after suffering their first loss.

The numbers:

Possessions: Virginia Tech 72, Saint Louis 73
Offensive efficiency: Virginia Tech 99, Saint Louis 106

Holding the high-powered offense that Virginia Tech puts on the floor to under 100 OE is a solid defensive achievement. Saint Louis coach Travis Ford spoke at length about defense being the key to this year’s group. Ringing up a 106 on the offensive end is none too shabby either.

Virginia Tech plays a fast mid-70-possession pace. Saint Louis, which plays less in transition, checks in at just under 70 possessions. Saint Louis achieved its goal. The low-70s tempo was due to added possessions as Virginia Tech fouled late while trailing in an attempt to comeback.

The four factors:

Effective field goal percentage: Saint Louis 51, Virginia Tech 46
Free throw rate: Virginia Tech 69, Saint Louis 44
Offensive rebound percentage: Saint Louis 26, Virginia Tech 17
Turnover rate: Saint Louis 18, Virginia Tech 14

High free throw rates were a product of excessive fouling. Tech was whistled for 24 fouls, while Saint Louis had 26. Several of Tech’s fouls, in all fairness, were due to late-game fouling where coach Buzz Williams was putting Saint Louis on the line hoping to extend the game.

Turnover rates (under 29 percent is the objective) were good on both ends. The difference can be ascertained in the offensive rebounding percentage. Rebounding is about tenacity and toughness — something Williams lamented after the game that his team sorely lacked.

Team leading scorers and efficiency:

Virginia Tech: Ahmed Hill, 26 points, EFF 26
Saint Louis: Javon Bess, 22 points, EFF 23

More on efficiency (EFF) next time out.

Speaking of time outs….Williams called a TO with 0.8 seconds left in the game and the Hokies down six. It did not go over well with the MSG crowd. Thankfully it was a 30-second respite.