Virginia Tech Falls To UNC In The ACC Tournament

Virginia Tech
Justyn Mutts had a huge game for the Hokies, but it wasn’t enough. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

For the second straight season, No. 22 Virginia Tech (15-6) had its ACC Tournament cut short at the hands of North Carolina (18-9) as the Tar Heels used their size to pull out an 81-73 victory.

“This is a hard game, man. This is fast. And it’s big and physical. Lose a bit of sharpness when you go that kind of period. But cannot ask another thing from our Hokie team,” Head Coach Mike Young said. “These guys gave me everything in their tank. We came up against a North Carolina team that’s playing pretty well at the right time.”

Tech was able to stay in it until the 11-minute mark of the second half when the ten-day COVID pause seemed to catch up with the Hokies. Similar to Tech’s loss to Georgia Tech out of their first break, the Hokies began to run out of gas down the stretch.

“It’s just so hard to replicate playing a game in this league. It’s so hard to replicate playing a game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against the North Carolina Tar Heels,” Young said. “It’s difficult. I did spend an inordinate amount of time with our staff, and what more could we do.”

The game was even at 49 with 11 minutes remaining when Keve Aluma leaped towards the rim to block a Garrison Brooks’ lay-up. The athletic feat was wiped away when the whistle blew from across the court, signaling a foul. Over the next five minutes, UNC outscored the Hokies 15-5 and maintained control for the rest of the night.

“A couple of miscues. I thought we still got to our stuff and still got great shots. We hung in there. It wasn’t due to a lack of offense. We simply — we didn’t have enough left to get that defensive stop, three defensive stops in a row, three defensive rebounds in a row.”

The Hokies were able to pull the deficit back within five shortly with under two minutes to go, but two quick threes immediately salted away the game for the Tar Heels. The final dagger came from R.J. Davis, who entered the game averaging under nine points per game. He led Carolina with 19 on Thursday night.

“They’re playing pretty well right now,” Young said. “Played a good ball game tonight, and needless to say, we all know that they have good players, and they outplayed us a little bit.”

The advantage for Carolina began on the offensive boards as the Heels used their monstrous size to dominate in the paint. In their opening game, the Tar Heels snatched 25 offensive rebounds against Notre Dame and had three players tally double doubles.

Tech clearly prepared for Carolina’s four-headed monster on the block, holding UNC to just two offensive boards in the first half. However, the Tar Heels’ size finally bit the Hokies in the second half as they pulled in 13 offensive rebounds after halftime.

“Boy, we were physical on the glass in the first half, but gosh sakes, they gobbled up — essentially gobbled up what appeared to be every carom in the second half,” Young said. “We’ll be fine with whomever we draw out there. You know, I think we got one out of our system.”

The leader of Carolina’s frontcourt on Thursday night was Richmond-native Armando Bacot, who put up 16 points and 13 rebounds on the night. Bacot was especially unstoppable as UNC went on its big second-half run, at one point scoring ten straight points for the Heels.

“They’ve got a couple five-star big men down there, and they’re able to just bring those guys in at any point in time, so you’ve got to stay ready,” forward Justyn Mutts said. “It was a different kind of game, but I think we had the pieces to handle it, we just weren’t able to get it done today.”

Tech’s top player didn’t have nearly as good of a night as Keve Aluma shot just 4-of-13 from the field, scoring just four points until the final few minutes. Aluma hadn’t scored in single-digits since the Hokies’ loss to Syracuse in mid-January.

“Looked a little spooked, and he’s played against so many really good front-line defenders in our league. He had some looks at it that he’s had all year, and he looked a little hesitant,” Young said. “I’m not sure what to attribute that to. He had good looks from three. I really don’t know how to answer, but I agree with you, he was a little hesitant.”

Tyrece Radford and Mutts were able to pick up the slack with both eclipsing 20 points on the night. Mutts posted a season-high 24 points, looking dominant against the much larger Carolina frontcourt.

“I thought for about 30 minutes of the game we were able to — 30 to 35 minutes of the game, we were able to match their aggressiveness,” Mutts said. “But towards the end, I think fatigue might have set in a little bit at some point. But I’d love to see them again at some point. That was a good game.”

Carolina moves on to face second-seeded Florida State in Friday’s second semifinal while the Hokies will have to wait until Sunday to learn their fate for the NCAA Tournament. Both UNC and Tech were listed as nine seeds by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi entering Thursday’s action. The Hokies’ standing could slide after the loss, but it’s all but guaranteed that they’ll have a game in Indianapolis next weekend.

“We’ll watch 15 minutes of it, some good, some bad, and then Sunday we’ll find out when, where and all that sort of thing as it pertains to Indianapolis,” Young said. “I told them in there, our sadness will be replaced with sheer joy here real soon when I find out what we’re doing on Sunday.”

Due to last year’s tournament being cancelled, a selection on Sunday would be the Hokies’ fourth consecutive appearance in the Big Dance.

Box Score

21 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I know Keve wished he had played more aggressively. I suppose it was coach’s orders to sty outside most of the game.

  2. By the way – Happy 25th Anniversary, today, March 12, 2021, to Hokie Central / Tech Sideline!

    From the first words posted, “Okay, let’s get the whining out of the way,” to everything else that has been said, reported, covered, analyzed, etc. … thank you Will, Chris, and everyone else involved in making TSL what it has been, continues to be, and hopefully will continue to be, as long as you guys are able and willing!


  3. Freakin’ frustrating. SMH.

    At this point, I just hope the Selection Committee doesn’t ‘Greenberg’ us.

    Like I said to anyone willing to listen then, when our most recent former Coach’s third squad in BBurg reached Selection Sunday, due to past happenings, I said, “I’ll believe it, when I see it.”

    Fortunately, we did make it then, and the next two seasons as well.

    Here’s hoping to see more Hokie Men’s Basketball, in March 2021. Maybe in April, as well.


    1. I’m with you on your thought logic. I’m waiting for a “certifiably insane” non-selection since most are saying Hokies are a lock to make tge Big Dance.

  4. You cannot win with someone like Bede on the floor WHO CANNOT HIT THE BROAD SIDE OF A BARN!!!!! I don’t care how good he is on defense you must have someone who can score some points. I’ll be glad to see him move on and replaced with someone who can SCORE some points. He constantly drives to the basket only to have the ball knocked into the stands or half way across the floor. Why on earth would someone his size try to drive to the basket against giants? The good news is he is a senior and I hope he doesn’t opt for another year in a Tech uniform.

    1. “Cannot win”

      15-6. He’s our floor general and on the court for a reason.

  5. NC rules are always in place. Just the way it is. Have to be much better and play much better than a Duke or UNC team to beat them in the state of NC…and often on the road as well. They lead the ACC brand, and you don’t want to kill that. With that being said, UNC kept bringing in 4- and 5-star fresh bodies that just wore us down. They beat us; refs didn’t IMO. As for Bede, he brings a lot to the table and we will miss his floor leadership and defense. We won’t miss his personal offense at all, though he certainly facilitates others’ offense around him. Time for him to begin his coaching career as GA.

    1. I Do want to kill the ACC brand…change it to Virginia schools and maybe FSU.

      Screw the Carolina mafia. If the other 11 programs had any sense they push for a complete outsider as new Commissioner.

      We need a new era of leadership that will capitalize on the fully expanded conference footprint. Our next CEO should be a media executive first and he should demand resignation from all of the current staff.

  6. OH MY GOODNESS……..BEDE is such a LIABILITY. I cant believe Buzz William’s recruited this guy. Cant shoot to save his or our lives. The team is playing 4 on 5 as long as he is in the game and his defense is not as great as people try to fool us it is.
    Sorry (bless his heart)…. but we will be really dangerous next year once we have been moved on.

    1. -1
      Bede has given 100 percent to this program and is a true Hokie. CMY made it one of his first priorities upon arriving at Tech to talk Bede into staying. Just look at all of the positive comments CMY has made about Bede (and I think he is a better judge on this subject than either you or I).
      Bede is a great teammate as well and makes this young team go. He will be greatly missed next year.

      1. Respect your comment but trust…..I played alot hoops. I may not have played collegiately but I know what good point guard play is suppose to look like. ..and yes so does Coach but he made the decision and sacrifice to keep Bede for team leadership to aid team transition- Smart move but extremely painful to live through Bede definitely did himself huge favor being a Total sponge and student under JRob. If Coach Young can keep him Committed and protected from all the BIG program psi that’s headed out way…….Wait until you see the Night and Day difference and contribution between Bede and Sean Pedulla from Oklahoma……Its NIGHT & DAY! This kid is the truth especially after hes gets 1 year of strength and conditioning. Mark it down….. Pedulla’s point guard play will make us a legitimate Top 10 team!

        1. I hope you are right – but no reason to unload on Bede who has done all he was asked and more…be cool!

    2. Two things can be true at the same time. He’s a great leader, teammate, and an amazing Hokie. He’s also an extreme scoring liability. When the opponent only has to guard 4 guys, it puts a lot of pressure on the others on offense. He missed 2 wide open layups! Was he the reason we lost, no, but a scoring PG certainly does help sometimes. If JROB were on this team, we would easily be a sweet 16 team.

      On a positive note, Mutts is a grown man! I heard a little bit preseason about how he has the best NBA potential on the team, and this was the first time he really showed it. Took it right at those 5 star centers! Just gotta work on those free throws…

      1. Exactly. This is it. There is no need to disparage what the kid is good at. He bleeds orange and maroon.

        Now – do we look for a scoring PG in the future. Yes. Yes we do.

  7. 4th seeded GT ends up paying a 13th seed who was playing for the 3rd day in a row. And 3rd seeded VT ended up playing what could be the hottest team in the ACC (besides GT). So much for celebrating the high seed. And just to make sure we didn’t catch any good fortune, had we pulled out the UNC game, our next opponent would not have had to play a game the day before.

    That said, while the outcome was one I expected, we played them a lot closer than I thought we would, given the circumstance and what they did to Notre Dame. So, kudos to the team for that. Just a friggin’ shame that COVID rained on what was potentially a great chance to compete for the ACCT championship.

  8. We missed a few bunnies and the NORTH CAROLINA RULES were in effect from jump. Cattoor and KEVE had 4 phantom fouls, meanwhile Mutts got run over while shooting a 3 ball, knocked to the floor- no foul.

    Keve perfectly pins a ball off the board- 2 shots…baby blue pins ball with contact- play on boys.

    We’ll be fine next week with neutral refs. Carolina will lose by 15-20 against FSU.

    1. Guess if you are big man and play for Carolina there is no such thing as a charging violation!

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