Virginia Tech Holds On For Second ACC Win In Victory Over NC State

Sean Pedulla had two clutch free throws to seal Virginia Tech’s victory on Wednesday. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

With 12.4 seconds to play in a one-point contest between Virginia Tech and NC State, Sean Pedulla stepped up to the free throw line. The freshman point guard from Edmond, Okla. had only four attempts from the stripe in his collegiate career, and he had never been in a situation like this.

Swish. Swish.

Pedulla’s two free throws extended the Hokies’ lead to three, 62-59, over the Wolfpack, and the shots ended up being the late-game difference in the Hokies’ second ACC win of the season.

“Oh my god,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said of Pedulla’s free throws after the game, breathing a sigh of relief. “Kid hadn’t been in that pressure-packed situation as a young person. That’s big, that’s huge. Get that thing to three, eight seconds to play.”

“They felt a little stressful, but I just kept thinking, ‘I’ve hit a thousand of these in my life, probably more,’ so I was ready for it,” Pedulla said. “I was spinning the ball, breathing [to relax].’ … But I just remembered how to stay calm, and I’ve been in that situation before. Maybe not on this scale, but just stay calm and trust your work ethic.”

Though Pedulla’s free throws were just two pebbles in a rock fight, they ended up pushing the Hokies to victory. In the last five minutes, Tech was 1-of-4 from the floor, 1-of-2 from three, 2-of-2 from the free throw line (Pedulla) and turned the ball over five times. Those giveaways all came in a span of 1:19 from 2:01-0:49, and four involved Nahiem Alleyne.

Mike Young & Co. (10-7, 2-4 ACC) didn’t play well towards the end, but they held on. That was the story of the contest: NC State (9-10, 2-6) climbed back into the game and had momentum, but Virginia Tech stuck to its defense, forced a few misses, hit shots when needed and prevailed.

“We were so bad in the second half,” Young said. “We look young and dumb, and we’re anything but that. Nahiem had a terrible turnover up seven, he travels with it down there. Justyn Mutts, who I thought was really good again, had a bad turnover, and that comes back to me.”

Young said afterwards that Tech needs to get better with finishing down the stretch, citing late breakdowns at Virginia and vs. Notre Dame. The Hokies led the Cavaliers by four with just over three minutes to play and were outscored 6-0, and they let the Irish tie Saturday’s game with 90 seconds to play before pulling away.

“We’ve got to handle those situations better,” Young said. “I trust my team. We’ve been in a number of pressure-packed games. We’ve got to respond better than we did in the second half, but let’s take nothing away from my guys. A win on the road, two in a row, a little better.”

From the thousand-foot perspective, defense won Tech the game on Wednesday night. Dereon Seabron, who averages 19 points per game, finished with 13 and had just five at intermission. Terquavion Smith added 14 while Jericole Hellems had 15, but they had two points each at halftime.

Even though the Wolfpack found their stroke in the second half and shot 48% from the floor, the Hokies’ defense really stifled them and made them work for every basket.

“I thought we guarded the fire out of them,” Young said. “Talked about it at the half. If we can get them to halfcourt and out of transition, they have a really hard time scoring on our set defense. I can say that about most outings. … I thought we guarded very, very well.”

Virginia Tech’s defense helped lead the Hokies to victory on Wednesday. (Jack Campbell/Virginia Tech)

There was a big emphasis on the boards as well, and it showed. Tech pulled down 37 to NC State’s 26, an immense difference from the previous meeting on Jan. 4 when Kevin Keatts & Co. had 14 more rebounds. Keve Aluma led the charge on that front, posting 11, while Mutts had nine.

“We did that now,” Young said of his team’s rebounding. “We were 20 and 11 at the half. Seabron just ripped us to shreds in game one, especially in the last six minutes. But much, much better.”

Mutts and Aluma paced the Hokies in points with 13 and 10, respectively, and every player who touched the floor scored. Nine points came from Nahiem Alleyne, eight from Hunter Cattoor and five from Storm Murphy, while the bench was the best its been so far in league play.

Tech made just seven of its 24 attempts from behind the arc, so its preferred way to score came through the paint. The Hokies put up 34 points in the interior, the duo of Aluma and Mutts was difficult to stop, and even David N’Guessan and John Ojiako found success down there.

“Every chance you can get to touch it down [to the bigs, Mutts and Aluma], the coaches make a good point: You have to touch them,” Pedulla said. “It’s not like a black hole where some big guys, you throw it in and never see it again. They’re looking to pass it back out to you, so whenever you throw it back, it’s just get to the open spot.

“Thought process is just get it down to them, and we’re at our best when we’re playing inside-out.”

Virginia Tech weathered the storm, and the win gets the team off to a strong start in an important week in its schedule. Wednesday’s game was the first of four over the next week, with tests at Boston College, at North Carolina and vs. Miami on the horizon.

As many coaches have said over the years, winning in the Atlantic Coast Conference is difficult to do. Tech’s victory over NC State wasn’t pretty, especially down the stretch, but it shows up in the win-loss column as a positive. Especially after an 0-4 start in the league, it feels even better, though the Hokies can’t dwell on it long.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Young said. “Let’s win tomorrow. We’ll clean this up, turn our attention to the Eagles, get to town on Friday and get ready to strap it on at noon on Saturday.”

Box Score: Link

28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Cattoor needs to be handling and shooting more; 50% from 3-pt. range, 60% overall from the field, and 36 minutes. That aside, the same issue that afflicted our football team all season seems to be afflicting our basketball team–conditioning. The sloppy mistakes in the final few minutes are likely fatigue related. Play the bench more, put the ball in Cattoor’s hands (Murphy had some bone-headed turnovers), and next season get on the conditioning and attrition issue earlier.

  2. What’s happened to Nahiem Alleyne this year? Can’t shoot and turns the ball over a LOT. It’s got to be a head thing, because he’s been great until this year. I think he needs to be relieved as a starter and bring him in later. Maddox and N’Guessan should take the bulk of his minutes. Maybe that will help in settle him down, or it may hurt him but we can’t afford to have him in there playing like this. I hate it but life is tough.

    1. Completely agree. He has struggled all year except maybe last game. He should no longer start and get so many minutes.

  3. Great win, but still worried about the lack of free throws we take. With the makeup of the current roster, not sure what we can do about that.

  4. Always tough to win away in the ACC, so great win. We almost stole defeat from the clutches of victory. Wow. We gave the ball away 4 times in the last minute. Don’t want to poo poo too much, but geez, we have to have more composure…and we will. My continuing concern is Aluma has great difficulties playing against ACC bigs. Aluma is a great player, but he’s 6’8″/6’9″. The upper half of the ACC has bigs that are true 6’10” and 6’11” guys. The NC State guy was tough too. Keve cannot be expected to bang with the bigs and us get the most out of him offensively, much less defensively because he gets tired. We need a formula that includes Ojiako during the game to free up Keve. Shift everyone down one slot for a time. Ojiako isn’t void of offense. He the opponent decides to leave the #4 on him, he will mash the dude underneath.

    1. I agree Prideenjoy!. If we don’t find a way to play Ojiako more, perhaps around ten minutes a game, relieving Aluma and Mutts, we are not going to win many more ACC games unless a home upset. I just don’t understand it – every time I’ve seen him play he does well in limited minutes. I attended the Notre Dame Saturday and he played nary a lick. I admit I’m not a basketball logistics guy but what am I missing here?

  5. Not getting all the complaints about our “starters playing too many minutes”. Look at the box score folks, NC State best 3 starters all played more minutes than our starters. They’re starters for a reason – Coach has decided they are our best players to give us the best chance to win. If they are fatiguing over a few extra minutes on the floor that goes to poor conditioning and Mike Young not knowing when to call strategic timeouts.

  6. I agree 100% with Hokietech. Losing close games because of fatigue. Pedulla and Maddox, especially, need more playing time. They deserve to play and I’m afraid we will lose them to the transfer portal if Coach Young doesn’t play them more.

    1. Agreed. I would also offer that Ojiako needs to be used more strategically against the ACC bigs. Keve gets worn down defending them and looks uncomfortable on offense against the big guys….and it won’t get easier against the top half of the league. Keve isn’t 6-10/11, he’s 6-8/9. He shouldn’t be expected to play against 5s. Have to free him up somehow.

    2. Pedulla is a Freshman, Maddox a Soph. Murphy is a Sr.. Both played 11′ in a pivot game. They will get their PT in due time and more as the season which is barely at the halfway mark winds on. .

    3. Highly doubt either is lost to the portal. Storm is gone next year and Pedulla takes his place and Maddox will only get more minutes with Mutts and Aluma gone

  7. Again, starters playing too many minutes. Alleyne – not a good game. 3 for 15. 5 turnovers

  8. This would have been a major backbreaker if the 15-0 and 19-2 start would have went down the drain. In the end, thankfully, we never trailed, led by as many as 18, and the only tie was 0-0.

    The season feels a little better now, but a long trip to BC then to Chapel Hill, with little turnaround time, gives no opportunity to breathe easy. Go, Hokies! Keep turning things around!

  9. G_H_G. I agree with you and have been saying it all year. Starters play too much. Need more minutes from the bench players. When Ojiako is in good things happen like his dunk in his couple of minutes. Pedulla is great and needs more time. N’Guessen and Maddox both add something. Most importantly the starters get tired and need more rest to be fresh at crunch time. CMY and staff will get it right. He is a great coach.

  10. Well, KenPom’s luck metric tilted one our way. Based on the way we played at the end we should have lost this game. But, that’s why NCState is not a good team. They couldn’t capitalize And they were missing a key player.

    1. Not just the game – they start playing like HS freshmen with their ball handling at the end of games. Those two turnovers back-to-back at the end were just lazy passing.

  11. Could It be that CMY needs a different lineup when protecting a late lead? A lineup with the best ball handlers and FT shooters? Maybe go to three guards with Pedulla, Murphy and Cattoor all on the floor together.

    1. Largest lead was 31-13.
      Looked like we played not to lose the whole 2nd half
      Maybe we used all our energy first 10 minutes

  12. The starters on this team play too many minutes, especially for a 3-point shooting team. No one can play lock down defense and make jump shots while playing 30-35 minutes. Now that the season is at crunch time, MY is going to have to play the bench more if VT wants to get to the NCAA tournament.

    1. Agree. Keep hearing from announcers about bench not contributing – can’t contribute when you actually don’t play anyone on the bench.

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