No. 16 Virginia Tech Falls To Pitt 83-72

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Virginia Tech
Keve Aluma had another big game, but it wasn’t enough for Virginia Tech. (ACC photography pool)

Inconsistency continues to bite No. 16 Virginia Tech (13-4, 7-3) on the road as the Hokies fell 83-72 to Pittsburgh (9-5, 5-4) on Wednesday evening.

“They were hungrier, they were more desparate, so credit to Coach Capel and his staff,” Head Coach Mike Young said. “They didn’t play particularly well against Notre Dame, but those kids took the weekend and righted the ship and figured some things out. They outplayed us tonight.”

The Panthers got plenty of production from its bench against the Hokies with 47 points coming from outside the starting five. That started with usual starting point guard Xavier Johnson, who poured in a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting. This was Johnson’s first time coming off of the bench this season, and the role seemed to fit him nicely.

“I don’t think we necessarily scouted him as a shooter, so we were going under a lot of ball screens and he was able to hit those shots,” forward Justyn Mutts said. “At the end of the day, he’s a good player, and good players are going to make big-time shots. 32 points, you have to respect it.”

Tech was able to hang with Johnson and the Panthers for most of the game, trailing by just two with under eight minutes left. However, a 13-0 run from the Panthers over three minutes put the game out of reach for the Hokies and doomed them to their third road ACC loss.

“Getting three stops in a row, we call that a ‘Sut’ and I don’t think we had any in the second half,” Mutts said. “We just weren’t able to dig our heels into the ground and get it done.”

Following back-to-back games where the Hokies held Notre Dame and Virginia, respectively, to their season lows in scoring, Tech allowed 80 points for the first time this season. The Panthers made nine threes and shot 50% from the floor in the win.

“We were just a step off. We cover up a lot of things with Aluma and Mutts,” Young said. “We were a step off of where we needed to be. Let’s be honest, Pittsburgh was the tougher team tonight, and that’s been a category that usually favors the Hokies, but it didn’t tonight. Lesson learned that you better pack that lunch pail every night.

The only silver lining defensively for the Hokies was their performance against the ACC’s leading scorer, Justin Champagnie. Entering the game averaging 20 points per game, Champagnie scored just 10 against the Hokies’ frontcourt, tying his season low.

“The gameplan on him because he’s such a dominant player, you just have to buckle down and play defense,” Mutts said. “We all watched a lot of film on him to see what his go-to’s were and what he likes to do and just go out there and play him according to that. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

The Hokies’ frontline had a great game offensively as well, as Mutts and Keve Aluma combined for 47 points and 16 rebounds. Aluma was able to one-up his career-high 29 points from Saturday’s game against UVA with 30 on Wednesday. He also knocked down a career-high four three-pointers; he had only hit three in the first nine games of ACC play.

“Early in the season, there was a stretch of games there where he was 7-of-8 from three,” Young said. “Then, it can happen, with a person that is not accustomed to taking and making that shot, he lost some confidence. He started backing away from a couple that upset me. He continued to shoot really well in practices in scrimmages, but we had a couple of things against Virginia where we needed him to get one down and he did.”

Outside of Tech’s starting forwards, the Hokies didn’t get much else offensively. Only three other Hokies scored. Sophomore Hunter Cattoor led the way with 12 points, all coming in the second half.

The starting frontcourt shot over 60% on the night, while the rest of the team was an abysmal 24% from the floor.

“Things are great when that thing is going in the basket, but you have to ring the bell and put that thing in the basket to put defenses on their heels and have them questioning some things,” Young said. “If you don’t make shots, now they’re on their toes and picking you up at half court and pushing you away a little bit. I didn’t think we were good on either end.”

This loss drops Tech to third in the ACC, behind Virginia and Florida State. Following the huge comeback loss against the Cavaliers, the Hokies weren’t able to live up to the hype and grab their third straight victory.

“It’s tough to come off of an emotional win and come in here and drop one,” Mutts said. “You really hate to see it, but at the ed of the day it’s basketball and it’s the ACC. If you don’t bring your best stuff every game, anybody can beat anybody.”

The Hokies will trade freezing Pittsburgh for balmy Miami this weekend as they face the Hurricanes for the second time this season. Tech beat Miami 80-78 in Blacksburg in late December and will look to bounce back to sweep the season series with the Canes.

Box Score

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16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Get a 6’6” guard from the portal, like the one that Pitt has. Our guards are too short and will be posted up constantly.

  2. Tough loss for sure, but not real surprising as Pitt needed a W very badly and they out hustled us in 2nd half. As much as I hate Pitt, give them credit that they made some key 3’s that flowed into the run that put the game away. Obviously we are not as good overall with Boots out of action and if Alleyne is not scoring like he was last night (& foul trouble) along with Cone being ice cold in 2nd half, it’s going to be hard to win especially on the road. Like Mutts said in post game presser, anybody in this league can beat anybody on a given night! Hokies have had 2 stinkers on the road so far and are still well ahead of preseason predictions. Lots of basketball still left and Hokies have very tough games next 3. My gut says they lose to Canes and UNC on the road and finally break the curse and finally beat the Cards at home on the 13th! Staying with glass half full perspective and remembering CMY is only half way through 2nd season and missing some players he started this season with and still doing a great job overall! Future is bright for VT BBall!

  3. They couldn’t miss second half and the guards had an off night. It happens on the road. Don’t forget it’s year TWO under MY’s program! The future is bright

  4. Bede’s lack of shooting/scoring ability has become too big of a problem to justify him getting starter minutes at PG. I realize the only option is Cattoor at this point, but it was flat out embarrassing how bad the defender would sag off Bede daring him to shoot. I mean 10-12 feet off of him. At one point even the announcer referred to Bede as “a guy who can’t shoot”. Sad for Bede but his ability to score simply hasn’t improved a smidgen since he came here. Thankful for his D and ability to run the offense usually but he did a poor job on Johnson last night and fouled jump shooters at least twice in the first half which is a huge no-no.

    1. Right, it they can play 10 foot off you, it hurts your ability to drive and clogs up critical passing lanes. PG who are shooting threats are just going to be more effective overall. Don’t need to be great shooter just some threat Defenses would be happy if Bede took all of our shots.

      I noticed at least 3 times where Cone doubled-down and then got burned on the 3 because he didn’t back quick enough. AND his is shorter making that even worse.

  5. This was a game where the loss of Radford showed immensely. He would have filled in for the lack of shooting and toughness and help keep us in the ball game.

  6. When Alleyne and Bede together cannot score we will not beat many teams because they sag now on the bigs. 4 on five offensive bball creates many losses

    1. Our bigs did well despite that. But its hard to overcome a combined 1 – 13 by Alleyne and Bede. It looks like both guys expect to miss when they shoot. Hopefully they can get some confidence back and improve their shooting.

      1. Add to that 7 – 19 by Cattoor and Cone, and we got 8 for 32 combined shooting (25%) by our guards. Not gonna beat anybody with that kinda production from the backcourt. We need at least one of those guys to be hot and one of the rest to be at least average.

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