Late Run With Key Defensive Stops Lifts Virginia Tech Over Maryland

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The Hokies got hot down the stretch at Maryland and hit nine-of-ten shots. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Virginia Tech was in a familiar position on Wednesday night in College Park. It struggled to shoot the ball, yet hung around thanks to stifling defense that kept it a two-possession game.

Then the Hokies found their rhythm. Trailing by seven with 11:58 to play at Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, they tucked their shirt into their shorts and went to work.

Coming out of a Mike Young timeout, the Hokies were just one-of-10 from the floor in the second half. Over the remaining 12 minutes, they hit ten of their 18 field goal attempts while holding the Terrapins to three-of-17 shooting. That included a period of 5:36 where Tech was a perfect eight-for-eight and Maryland was just one-for-seven.

Thanks to that stretch and making nine of its last ten field goals, Virginia Tech (6-2) bounced back from a poor second half start to knock off Maryland (5-3) 62-58 in the XFINITY Center.

“We weren’t very good, but something turned on,” Young said to Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop on the Virginia Tech Sports Network afterwards. “We haven’t found our legs here offensively, but this bunch’ll grind on ya, and they’ll defend time and time and time again.”

That defense kept the Hokies in the game. Though Terrapins center Qudus Wahab had 18 points and was seven-for-eight, the rest of Maryland was just 17-47 (36%). The Terps turned the rock over 15 times, only had six assists on 23 made shots and made just one of their 13 three-point attempts.

Tech entered Wednesday night’s clash of former ACC rivals with a solid three-point defense rating, and that prowess was on display once again. Even when the Hokies struggled to shoot the ball, which was most of the game – VT was 12-32 (37.5%) in the first, 11-28 (39.3%) in the second – they frustrated Maryland on its home floor.

Foul trouble for Wahab was huge. He finished with seven rebounds to complement his scoring, but he barely played in the second half due to foul trouble. Though he had just one at halftime, he picked up two in five minutes (his first one in less than 90 seconds), sat from 15:02 until 10:00, and picked up his fourth with 8:52 to play.

Most of the Terrapins’ offense ran through Wahab in the first half, but his absence from the court for a large portion of the game allowed Virginia Tech to find its rhythm. Though he disrupted Tech inside for the majority of the first 20 minutes, Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts and David N’Guessan found ways to answer with him on the bench down the stretch.

Keve Aluma led Virginia Tech with his second double-double of the season. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Aluma posted his second double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 boards, and Mutts was effective in every facet of the game. He finished with 16 points (6-12 FG, 2-3 3FG, 2-4 FT), four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Most importantly, he made plays that didn’t show up in the stat sheet, particularly defensively.

One specific instance that stood out was his steal with 6:17 remaining. Tech poked the ball away from Maryland’s Eric Ayala and Mutts scooped it up with a chance to speed up the game and drive to the rim at the other end.

Instead, he helped Tech take a deep breath. The veteran, who is an important leader on this Hokies team, slowed it down and kept his dribble in front of the Hokies’ bench, allowing his team play its style of basketball.

That possession handed Virginia Tech the keys to the game. The ball found Hunter Cattoor on the right wing, who swung it up top to point guard Storm Murphy.

After a few difficult games against tough competition, the Wofford transfer grew into the game in Maryland. He finished with four assists, two rebounds and just one turnover, and he seemed to find his flow after struggling early.

“He played the position tonight,” Young said of Murphy. “He was a point guard tonight.”

With the ball in his hands at the top of the arc, Murphy drew three – not one, but three – Terrapin defenders and hit Nahiem Alleyne with a bounce pass on the left wing. His three gave the Hokies the lead and they never trailed again.

Tech hit eight straight field goals, expanding the lead to seven, before missing and opening up the game to a 6-0 Terps run that cut it to one with :52 to play.

It was all Hokies, though. They almost lost the ball in the corner after being trapped with :28 to go, but Cattoor called timeout, and Mutts scored off an inbound play. Maryland missed a three at the other end, Mutts hit a free throw to extend the lead to four, and Virginia Tech walked out of the XFINITY Center with a four-point win, the program’s first in College Park since 2011.

“You’ve heard me say it many times: ‘I have a really good basketball team,’ Young said. “Will we be better? Yes, we will, but a really good win for our team.”

Up Next: Wake Forest

The Hokies host the Demon Deacons (7-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. from Cassell Coliseum. Wake Forest was one of six ACC teams to win their game in this week’s challenge, holding on for an 80-77 overtime win over Northwestern on Wednesday in Winston-Salem.

Transfers Jake LaRavia and Alondes Williams each posted 21 points and combined for 15 field goals on 25 attempts, while the Demon Deacons shot 46% from the floor and shut the Wildcats down in overtime.

For more on Wake Forest and Steve Forbes, an old friend of Mike Young, check out our preview of this week’s games.

Box Score: Link

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14 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “We weren’t very good, but something turned on,” Young said to Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop….

    I can tell him what “turned on” late in the game–Cattoor! He’s a very good player and it’s been fun watching him develop. Murphy will get there too. What I like about Murphy (oh so early in his D1 ACC VT career) is that he sees things and takes control on the court; a Field Marshal of sorts. He doesn’t have to score a bunch of points right now as long as he can see what’s happening and can distribute the ball smartly. Reminds me some of Bobby Hurley.

    Thing is, I have confidence in Young and our basketball team–they’re good and I know they know what they’re doing. I expect us to win and I sit back and enjoy the game. Hopefully our football team will get back to instilling confidence the way they did 1993 to about 2011; we expected to win!

  2. Nice article! Glad our kids found their rhythm but we looked soft and disjointed at times. We’ve struggled with physical teams, especially with talented post men.

    Maryland’s yellow unis are truly awful. They make our orange togs look sharp and even our prison-inmate grays look better than that garbage.

  3. It appears we will once again have a point guard who won’t score much. He is a better passer than Bede but not as good defensively so not sure what the trade-off will be. Presumably he is being guarded more closely because of his shooting potential (Bede was often left open) and that has to help some. He just isn’t athletic or tall enough to get open looks or drive to the basket. Good win as I was starting to wonder if we were going to get enough OOC wins to give us a chance at the NCAA. Hopefully we win 2 of 3 remaining OOC and maybe all 3 if we can beat SB.

    1. Storm will either up his offensive game or getting pushed to the bench more often as others get more experience and show their talent. I think if Murphy plays within himself. We will get open shots versus trying to make shots happen. I think he played much better in the second half of the second half.

    2. Actually, I think he’s pressing maybe a little too hard, as Mike Young seems to be hinting. I saw him make a couple quick moves early in the game where he got off a good drive / shot….and just missed. Ditto on a couple of open 3 point attempts that in his past he’d make as often as not. As said on this board before, an open shot is an open shot, regardless of the competition level.

      I think his scoring will certainly be less than at Wofford, but it will show up when he settles in better.

    3. We have a point guard that can help stretch the field tho. Bede allowed teams to play 5 on 4 on defense—essentially leaving him open as you mentioned.

      The scouting report on Storm is to get physical with him and disrupt his rhythm. Even still he is a threat to score, teams are over playing him, and that opens up space for Aluma/Mutts in the paint as well as other shooters on the wing.

      He will get out of this funk, but don’t let that 0 in the score column fool you-he is an upgrade from Bede (although I love that kid’s heart and toughness!)

      1. Agreed. Murphy will find his range eventually. These last few games he’s been playing against the best defenses that he’s even seen. He’ll adjust and start hitting some of his outside shots.

  4. The team played very good defense tonight to grind out the W.

    Two observations:
    1) Second game (other was Xavier I believe) I can recall where Aluma missed the front of a 1 and 1 in a big spot. Hokies were fortunate that didn’t cost them the lead. Would love to see that improve as Aluma is going to be in that situation a bunch at the end of games.

    2) The officials really switched up how they called this game in the second half. I think there were about 7 combined could in the first half as they let them play. Secondv half was called much tighter laying to foul trouble for key players in both teams and disrupting a game that has flowed in the first half. In always curious how a change that drastic happens (7 first half fouls vs 20+ second half fouls).

    Good win Hokies!

  5. Aluma looked soft at the rim in first half and last two games
    Missed multiple point blank layups and close to the rim baskets
    But he ended up with 17 points tonight
    Hope he gets stronger around the basket going forward
    He will need to be dominant going forward

    1. He’s not a true center IMO. Works better in space. Wish we had a thicker strong jumper like many you see swatting our balls away and backing down Aluma around the basket.

      Aluma has good moves and plays a finess game. You can ask all u want for a “strong around the basket” presence but that’s not his game. He doesn’t have the “lift” to dominate the rim.

      He is a 4 having to play 5 due to program realities.

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