Virginia Tech Bested By Wake Forest in ACC Opener, 80-61

Keve Aluma led Virginia Tech with 23 points in the loss to Wake Forest. (Ivan Morozov)

From the get-go, Virginia Tech was bested by Wake Forest in Cassell Coliseum in an 80-61 loss in the first ACC game of the season.

Steve Forbes & Co. couldn’t miss on Saturday afternoon. They connected on 33 of their 52 field goals (63.5%), including 7-16 (43.8%) from behind the arc, and were simply better than the Hokies. That mark from the floor is the second-highest mark from any opponent against Tech in the Mike Young era, just behind Dayton’s 63.6 in Maui in 2019.

“I thought we were playing catch-up all night and not catching up in terms of scoreboard, catching up in terms of in terms of guarding them,” Young said afterwards. “From the opening possession, we got strung out and Williamson hit a three over opposite our bench. This team, this Virginia Tech team, has been very, very good on that end all year, with the possible exception of one in New York.

“Just an accumulation of minor details on our part that cost you ballgames. Poor communication, and they thrive, they do a good job, they thrive on your mistakes on that end on that end of the floor and we made enough to make them pretty good this afternoon.”

Tech (6-3, 0-1 ACC) struggled to score early but grew into the game in the later stages of the first half on that end of the floor and trailed by four at the half. Strangely, the better its offense played, the worse it was on defense.

Keve Aluma led the Hokies with a season-high 23 points and hit eight of his 16 field goal attempts, including four-of-seven from long range. He made three treys in the first half to keep the team in the game, which is impressive considering he was just two-of-16 entering the afternoon. He also added nine boards, too.

Justyn Mutts complemented Aluma with 15 points (7-10 FG). Outside of that duo, however, Virginia Tech was a horrid eight-for-30 (27%). Nahiem Alleyne (seven points, 1-7 FG, 1-5 3FG, 4-4 FT) and Hunter Cattoor (2 points, 1-5 FG, 0-4 3FG) weren’t themselves. Storm Murphy added seven points, and the bench scored seven total points, five of which came from Darius Maddox.

Justyn Mutts added 15 points to complement Keve Aluma’s 23. (Ivan Morozov)

Four Wake Forest (8-1, 1-0 ACC) players scored in double figures, led by Daivien Williamson’s 19. Dallas Walton contributed 17, while Jake LaRavia and Alondes Williams posted 10 each.

The Hokies’ problems were rooted in poor defense, to which Young alluded. They had just three instances over the 40-minute stretch where they scored, got a stop and scored again. Two of those moments were back-to-back in the first half, and the one time in the second half was capped off by two free throws from Alleyne, not even a field goal.

The Demon Deacons played well defensively and made offensive possessions difficult for VT, but it was Tech’s inability to get stops that opened up the game for the taking. Wake Forest had a consistent presence offensively, which never gave Young’s team an opportunity to claw its way back.

Picture Mufasa in The Lion King, hanging from the cliff and slowly slipping down. That was Virginia Tech, needing a Wake Forest drought to have a real chance late in the contest. The Hokies couldn’t get stops and the Deacs continued to score, which was essentially Scar forcing Mufasa to his doom.

“I thought there came a point in the second half where our lack of getting stops, getting those three straight stops that we talk about all the time, that had a snowball effect on the offensive end,” Young said. “I was fine with the shots we were getting and Aluma was good. … Nahiem had a tough day, Hunter Cattoor had a tough day. Storm has got to come on for us. They will. Those guys are too good of players.

“I don’t think it was anything defensively that Wake Forest was doing, but I continue to go back to the defensive end. Just an atypical Hokie performance on that end of the floor. I think LaRavia had three first half offensive rebounds. Just not sharp.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Murphy and Mutts postgame. Mutts said the Hokies “just weren’t clicking,” and mentioned that they weren’t all on the same page.

“Our defense just did not connect today at all,” Mutts said. “We have to do a better job of making sure it’s a habit, that it’s something we do every single time, that we’re able to be on the same page, five fingers in a fist. That’s something coach Young likes to say, and we were not that today.”

Virginia Tech struggled defensively against Wake Forest, despite being so good in that area so far this season. (Ivan Morozov)

Mutts said the Demon Deacons were more active than his team was, and Murphy alluded to the defense being just a little bit off. It’s strange, because even when Tech’s offense has struggled this year, the defense has been there to give the team a chance.

“We were just scrambling too much and playing catch-up,” Murphy said. “The defense usually has been so great for us and I think Wake has a lot to do with that. They’ve got a lot of talent, they have a great offense where they’re running a lot of ball screens, and they’re savvy with their slip-outs and their back cuts.”

Young said the loss reminded him of the Penn State game in Blacksburg in 2020-21, where the Hokies were walloped by 20 points. They couldn’t keep up because they couldn’t guard the Nittany Lions. The good news is after that ACC/Big Ten Challenge loss, Tech ripped off seven wins in its next eight games.

Now the Hokies’ attention turns to Cornell, Dayton and St. Bonaventure in its final three non-conference games. It’s also the first time the team has started 0-1 in league play in the Young era, and road trips to Duke and North Carolina are next on the docket.

Tech has some work to do between now and then, and its next games will give them an opportunity to work some of those kinks out.

“A sprint to the ball. Better shot contest. Playing with high hands. Better closeouts,” Young said on what little details need to be improved. “We’ve got the last home game before January on Wednesday and then back out against good people. It’s Dec. 4, we’ll be just fine around here.”

Box Score: Link

21 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Wake better than pre-season expectations. VT seemingly not as good as expectations. We certainly have not fared well after moving beyond the season-opening cupcakes to playing peer competition. Our defense was awful, esp in the paint. We are desperately missing Radford, and prolly asst Coach Frazier. Not to mention Bede’s defense. And Murphy has been exposed on both defense and offense. Listening to Laze & Burnop telling it straight yesterday was painful. Hoping CMY can figure out how to stop the bleeding.

  2. I realize we all have concerns about how our BB team is playing. The Dayton and St. Bonnie games, imho will tell us and CMY and his staff if we have what it takes to be a good team. Yes it was embarrassing yesterday and I hope the team is really po’d and gets it self turned around to the positive.
    This is not a criticism just an observation regarding Murphy, start being aggressive and get physical. Play smart and don’t be afraid to shoot the ball. He seems to play very tentative and he also looks like he’s not playing with confidence.
    CMY needs to have a serious conversation with him. Murphy needs to relax and play with confidence.

  3. Need to mention that VT didn’t bother trying more than 1-2 shot attempts inside the arc for the first 12minutes of the game. Poor offense

  4. I thought this would be a special year. Nope, disappointed again as many times previously. The tape is already out. We are soft and play basically five guys and we we give out, as could be expected. We have Limited talent and no depth. What happened to John O our supposed improved big center? We get pushed around mightily. He barely plays at all. And Basamile and the guy ?? who transferred to TA&M ? We need them now. I was and am a Mike Young fan, good SW VA guy, but I have finally realized after all these many years things will never change in spite of my passion and commitments.

  5. I doubt this team makes it to ncaa.

    Storm for Bede net minus. Loss of the Swiss Army knife very damaging from many aspects.

    We lack a true 5 who can bang- Aluma will play European ball at four his natural position. We needed Ojiako to advance to starting role but he’s apparently not going to make it.

    Portal very important next year.

  6. Bested? Perhaps the are more appropriate adverbs to use here:


    We simply were overmatched and overwhelmed. We had no answer to Wake. There are serious concerns that have now been exposed in the past 4 games.

    Time to reset the expectations.

      1. Maybe Chester Frazier was the motivator and brains behind the operation? When you play a real ACC team with the Wofford All-Stars, without “tough-minded” players like Bede and Radford, you get X and WF. Unless you’re UNC or Duke, you can’t play finesse ball in the ACC.

  7. The last four games have exposed, rather dramatically, the flaws with this team. Not to pick on Storm ( we love him), but it’s becoming apparent why he didn’t have many (any?) major college basketball offers out of high school.

  8. First thing you learn as a seven-year-old about basketball is the lay-up drill. Maybe Coach Young can run that for his team a couple of hours and see if they can get the hang of it.

  9. Reminds me of the pre-season football hype machine being repeated. Results do not meet the hype in either case.

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing, and I bought into both sales jobs this year. It seems we perform better when we go into seasons with lower expectations.

  10. I’m not as confident as CMY that “we’ll be just fine around here”. Wonder what his definition of “fine” is?

    This team has way too much experience to get blown out by WF.

    Seems like “forced” confidence…..I think this team has real problems.

    1. This Wake team may be much better than ur giving them credit for. Two great portal pickups plus a good coach they emit last years Wake

  11. Not too sure about the Lion King metaphor, in terms of cartoons it was more like Road Runner and Wili E. Coyote – never a chance. In any case, while the D was historically poor in terms of oppo. shooting %, the offense was also MIA from the backcourt. Overall, it looked like team was hung over from a Friday night party.

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