Miami’s Buzzer-Beater The Twisting Of The Knife In Virginia Tech’s Heart

All the Hokies could do was stand there in awe after the buzzer-beater. (Ivan Morozov)

Sometimes, all you can do is throw your hands up. That was the reaction from Virginia Tech after Charlie Moore’s half-court buzzer-beater lifted Miami to a 78-75 victory in Blacksburg.

In the post-game press conference room, Mike Young banged his hands on the table in frustration. 10-10, 2-7 in the ACC isn’t where the Hokies envisioned they would be in late January. Heck, you’re kidding yourself if you thought their record would be this poor. Yet, here they are.

Wednesday was a story that has been all too frequent in this Virginia Tech program this season. Young’s veteran group of three fifth-year seniors and two juniors was competitive and scrapped but came up just short. It didn’t matter that they were 50% from both the floor and from three, shot 15 free throws or outrebounded the Hurricanes by six.

Miami’s playmakers won the basketball game in the end, thanks to a little luck. With 1.8 seconds remaining, Moore caught the inbound pass, took two steps and leapt from the other side of mid-court, releasing the ball in the air with 1.0 on the clock.

Banks aren’t usually open at 9 p.m., but the one in Cassell Coliseum was for Miami. Tech, on a high after playing so well, was immediately taken to such a low, Moore’s shot the twisting of the knife in the Hokies’ heart.

“I’m very proud of you and I appreciate your effort and this thing’s going to turn,” Young said, describing his message to his players after the loss. “We’ve got a really good basketball team. We have deserved better outcomes, but that’s the game, man. Doesn’t owe you a damn thing. You’ve got to suck it up and play better. You can’t have 12 turnovers in the first half. Everything matters.

“I’m very proud of my bunch and I’d like to hug each of them.”

Both teams seemingly hit every shot in the game. It was a clean one, just 22 total fouls, and the two programs were a combined 54-of-103 (52.4%) from the floor. It was the Canes, though, who didn’t miss down the stretch.

All season, late-game struggles have doomed the Hokies. Those demons were active again on Wednesday. After taking a five-point lead behind a Justyn Mutts layup with 2:24 left, Tech didn’t score again. 0-of-3, including two three-point attempts in the final minute. Meanwhile, Miami went on an 8-0 run to close out the contest, courtesy of three free throws from Isaiah Wong and Miller’s prayer.

Hunter Cattoor had the potential game-winner bounce off the back iron with four seconds to go, a look that Young, Cattoor and Mutts said was the one they wanted.

“That was Lubbock,” Young said of the play. “We had run that three times. That was kind of our… bread and butter. We’ve timed that out. We need ten seconds to come off that thing. … The shot, because of the circumstances, situation, we’ve got to have the last shot there, I can’t fault Hunter.

“We could’ve handled that better, but I’ll take that shot from that kid any day of the week. He missed it, and we had something unfortunate happen to us.”

Cattoor had made four of his seven 3-point attempts before that moment, and it’s one he usually makes. Entering Wednesday, he was shooting 45.8% from behind the arc. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t roll your way.

Miami received double-digit scoring from all five of its starters, led by Kameron McGusty’s 19 points. Miller had 18, Charlie Moore dropped 13, while Wong and Sam Waardenburg added 12 each.

Cattoor did an excellent job defending Wong, who made just four-of-ten attempts and turned the ball over twice. As a team, Tech consistently had a hand in the face of the Canes’ shooters. They just made their shots.

Cattoor defended Wong very well on Wednesday. (Ivan Morozov)

“Isaiah Wong is just an exceptional basketball player,” Young said. “He can get by you and contort his body and get it up on the glass. Has a lethal shot fake, … I thought Hunter Cattoor, yet again, did an exceptional job on their best player, a team with a lot of really good players.”

Jim Larrañaga’s bunch was 29-of-53 (54.7%). Not a season-high by any means against VT – Wake Forest’s 63.5% is unlikely to be topped – but it’s the third-highest percentage through 20 games, the most since Duke (53.7%) back in December.

Where the Hurricanes did kill the Hokies was from behind the arc. Before Wednesday, Tech hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50%, let alone 46% vs. Xavier. Miami? 11-of-18, 61.1%.

“They shot 54% on our team,” Young said. “That’s not good enough. I thought that we contested shots pretty darn well, they just made contested shots and that happens sometimes.”

Offensively, Tech was led by Keve Aluma, who had 14 points (5-8 FG), three rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Nahiem Alleyne and Cattoor each finished with 13 points on four-of-nine shooting (a combined 7-of-13 from 3-point range), while Justyn Mutts was extremely close to a triple-double. He finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Hokies got a spark off the bench for the first time recently, too. Darius Maddox dropped 13 points (4-of-6, 2-of-4 from three) – Young said he was “terrific” – while David N’Guessan added six (Young said he was “very good) and Sean Pedulla had four. 23 total points came off the bench, a season-high in ACC play.

However, Tech didn’t take care of the basketball in the first half. Cattoor said the team just got stronger with the basketball after halftime, but 12 first half turnovers is atrocious. The Hurricanes’ defense was troublesome – Young mentioned them rotating to Tech’s pitch guy – but a lot of the turnovers were unforced.

“Sloppy basketball,” Young said. “It disgusts me. It just irritates the fool out of me. To kick the doggone thing 12 times [in the first half] was infuriating.”

Mike Young was not happy about the Hokies turning it over 14 times. (Ivan Morozov)

That was one of a handful of problems for Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. Worse, Georgia Tech knocked off Florida State by 14, meaning the Hokies sit in last place of the ACC all by themselves. Miami is in first place alone with the Seminoles losing.

20 games in, last place in the ACC. No one ever would’ve guessed, and it’s still puzzling why this team has struggled so much. “You’re what your record says you are” is very accurate. At the same time, the Hokies appear to be better than this. They’ve hung around in every single league contest except the opener vs. Wake Forest. Six of the nine league games have had a single-digit margin, including four losses.

Ken Pomeroy’s luck factor might have something to do with it. Tech is No. 356 out of 358 teams in Pomeroy’s “luck” metric. That is calculated by “the deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record using the correlated gaussian method.”

To summarize, analytics love this Virginia Tech team and program, but those statistics aren’t showing in the win-loss results.

Luck, poor play in the last five minutes of games and bad shooting nights have all factored in. This year, Virginia Tech hasn’t won at least three games in the first nine league contests for the first time since 2014-15, Buzz Williams’ first season. The last time Tech was 2-7 through nine? In 2012-13 under James Johnson.

Keve Aluma and the Hokies are 2-7 in the ACC. (Ivan Morozov)

This team has experience and has played in close contests, coming out on both sides. It features First Team All-ACC player Keve Aluma. But many times it doesn’t run like a well-oiled machine on one end or the other, and that’s a problem.

The Hokies have a few days of rest before traveling to Tallahassee to play Florida State on Saturday. Riding a three-game losing streak, they’re trying to get back on the right track. Considering there’s a good chance they have a very unlikely shot to make the NCAA Tournament, however, it seems as if all hopes lie with NIT.

“You’ve just got to block it out and keep moving forward,” Mutts said. “Stay in the moment. Stay present. Like coach Young says, ‘win the day.’ We lost today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Box Score: Link

53 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I can’t tell whether it’s the players that don’t have composure, or the system/coaching that has caused the players to lose their composure. In the beginning of the year, this team was loose and fun to watch. Outside who should be playing more minutes (Maddox, Ojiako, Pedulla) this team needs to rekindle loose playing…more decisiveness, quicker ball movements, PG drawing players and dumping it, quicker decisions by Mutts and Aluma to kick it out or take on the defender. NO MORE NBA 1 ON 1 OFFENSE.

  2. I dunno know. My UVA Buddy says We got a bunch of Mid Majors on the Team-and in the Crunch time-they are Mid Majors. Gotta get some Big Dudes-it’s gonna Happen. I’m as old as Dirt, and in 1972-I think-I was up there in the Coliseum-West Va. and Tech. Tech up by 1 Point-West Va. threw up a Prayer from 40-Swish. Full House. 10,000 Folks walked out Silently -too stunned to Curse or Bitch-Me too. As a Long Time Hokie-it seems like it happens to Us more than most Schools-I’ll swear on some Bibles. Hopefully, We pull it out next Time- maybe out Butt for a Change-whateva.

  3. Why did MY run a 3 pt play at the end of the game? We only needed a 2 pt play. Drive the damm ball to the basket and get 2 or draw a foul. Basic basketball 101 for gosh sakes!

    1. I posted that exactly on another board. Sherman Potter needs to seek some outside counsel o. His last 14 games.

  4. Way more than ” a little luck” for the opponent contributed to the defeat last night, along with all the previous choke jobs this year. In my opinion it was a horrible call by Coach MY, but after reading the article apparently he thinks otherwise, which is scary. Why do you have Catoor shooting the ball 5 ft. beyond the 3-point line with approx. 3 seconds left, obviously, enough time to allow Miami to hit their lucky” shot? And why in the world was Maddox not in the rotation for the closing play, and even more strangely not in for the last 5 minutes of the game? At least he could have been a “decoy” for Catoor’s shot. To this layman, it appears that Coach MY is way too loyal to his old guard from Wofford, to the detriment of our team. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Maddox enter the portal, for which I really wouldn’t blame him. A sad time for all HOKIES, especially after the debacle that we lived through for football this season- absolutely pathetic. And in closing, if what I have read on TS is true about Young’s $12million buyout, shame on Babcock for agreeing to such ludicrous terms.

    1. It’s a pattern, right? Starters give the other team a nice lead in the first half. Backups come in, unafraid, mix it up, we come back and tie or take lead, Young sticks starters back in at the end, we lose.

  5. Are we hearing anything regarding “players-only meetings” or who the vocal leaders are in the locker room? Are there any “behind-the-scenes” issues?

  6. We’re simply not good enough from coaching on down. We have talent, but that talent isn’t being put in a position to succeed. I guess what I mean is things like we played our backups like Pedulla and Maddox and went up by 5. What does Young do? Pulls them, goes back to the starting lineup (like every loss we’ve had) and they give the lead back and we lose. By the way, Ojiako not being played hurts us. Badly. He isn’t a “skill” player, he’s a “role” player and he’s big, gets rebounds, gives other bigs the business, and does the LITTLE THINGS that nobody on this team thinks is important (offensive/defensive rebounds, for example). I just don’t get it. Nguessan did show a little something last night that gives me hope for next year if he gains 25 pounds. He’s tall, too light, and not skilled enough yet. Play Ojiako, free up Aluma who cannot play with the 5s in the ACC and he shouldn’t be expected to. That big white dude had a field day. My new starters (call me crazy):


  7. Disappointed in CMY coaching this year. Not saying he should be fired, but the shine is clearly worn off. Poor end game decisions, poor time outs, questionable substitutions, etc.

    And this is not what I think, rather what others on the board say, who have a higher basketball acumen than I do.

    Time to plan ahead. Pedulla, Maddox, NGuessan all need to start, or at least play more minutes.

    1. I agree but imagine the future with those 3 you mentioned plus Ojiako starting…I love our guys and hate saying but that’s a dead last ACC team. The future scares me

      1. My friends think I’m nuts, but Ojiako should be starting. He’s better than people think. I saw him 3 years ago before he got injured. He’s an asset role player and the biggest guy we have. We have to use him this year, if nothing else, to get him ready for next.

    2. lack of recruiting will be his downfall, as is the case with every former VT coach in the past couple decades. CMY isn’t flashy enough to draw elite talent to the burg and as such he won’t be here for very long.

        1. Agree. I’m a homer for Buzz, I admit. But there’s no disputing he is an elite coach. I wish we had a few more years to convince him that Blacksburg was “home.”

          We are lacking top-level PG play. What I would give for Seth Allen or JRob right now!

          The other thing that is obviously lacking is end-of-game strategy and execution. I know Buzz had excellent assistant coach input, but the drop off between Buzz and CMY is HUGE. We used to have smart, fluid plays that the team could execute. Now we just clank and bungle our way to game-ending droughts which inevitably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

          Frustrating and sad. Our players and fans deserve better.

  8. MY completely mangled that last possession and this offensive system is frankly boring to watch.

    1. Pedulla will help this team the more he gets playing time. He’s creative. He drives and dumps. The more time he gets….just watch…this dude is going to be incredible.

  9. “competitive and scrapped but came up just short” = just not good enough. Unfortunately our stature and our bench are too short to be more than a middle of the pack team in the ACC. You could see it a mile away. Once VT gets into conference play we get figured out and the combination of lack of any inside presence and short bench result in us losing games late. Clock management and terrible turnovers don’t help.

    1. edit – I will add that the “luck” metric (in my opinion) just reflects that there isn’t one thing that we do exceptionally well. If, say, we were a great rebounding team………or a great defensive team………or we had elite outside shooting……….we could lean on that in crunch time. Because we have none of those things most of the time in close games we will come up short……..or get “unlucky”

  10. Wanna not get your “hearts broken” – stay up by 10 pts in the last 60 seconds of the game…

  11. Aluma leaving his feet and fouling a 3 pt shooter at the end was a dagger to our chances to win. A truly stupid play from an experienced player.

    1. Just prior to that he also took a bad look for a 3 and missed. Ugh. He looks tired out there.

      1. That’s right, which is why Ojiako should be playing against ACC 5s, not Aluma. Aluma needs to be put in a position to succeed. Young is saddling him with too much. Ojiako is a big guy, role player, and the few minutes he plays here and there he is very effective. I keep harping on Big John, and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m telling you, that dude was getting VERY good three years ago before he got hurt. Not playing our biggest guy that isn’t afraid to mix it up, get rebounds on both ends, and bang with the bigs is a mistake.

  12. Missed opportunity for a quality win. My biggest disappointment was when we called a TO to setup a potential game winning shot and it is a 30 foot shot, with very little rebound possibilities. I hope that we have less obvious plays to call in crucial situations.

    1. With our starters. Seems like we always put our starters back in and we lose after having a lead doesn’t it? Our starters also put us behind every game in the 1st half don’t they?

      Pedulla, Maddox, Ojiako all need to play more. If NGuessan keeps playing like last night, him too…but generally he’s too light and not good enough yet….just a body. But last night gave me hope for him. NGuessan gains 20 pounds this summer, look out, but not there yet.

  13. And now VT gets another good team on the road coming off a bad loss – if it weren’t for bad luck these guys would have not luck at all.

  14. It should be past the point of being “puzzling” why this team is struggling. We know the real, tangible reasons. We have seen it repeatedly. It isn’t just bad luck. Miami hitting the long shot may be luck. But there reasons why the team is in this position. And if young is infuriated by first half turnovers, hold players accountable, even if it means losing.

    1. Miami hit long shots because they are tall enough to shoot over the 5-10″ guards defending them or they can always just blow by them. Flat out this back court is not good enough to start in the ACC.

  15. 5 pt lead vs Xavier 6-0 run to lose
    4 pt lead vs uva 6-0 run to lose
    5 pt lead vs Miami 8-0 run to lose

    It’d be unbelievable if I hadn’t seen it over and over and over again for 45 years of watching Hokie Sports
    We have a well earned nickname given to us by our rivals just having to add that C in front of Hokies

  16. To be clear, that last shot won the game for Miami in regulation but they would have had another chance in overtime. So, 50/50 at best, probably better for them given our end of game struggles. Wouldn’t have expected to win in OT.

    1. This team is a total reflection of its coach. Team has no sense of urgency nor does it have a killer instinct. CMY and his OTJ training is killing what semblance of hope that this fan base and team members have. Our team is so perimeter driven that attacking the basket is foreign. Why not draw up a play to create…….maybe a basket, a foul or a put back. NO, we do a “Globetrotter” weave and heave up a 30 foot shot. Defense…..Same story…”guard mentality”. Blocking out is an unknown and helping out underneath after a double team has not been taught by this staff. This loss was a dagger in my heart and probably to the team as well.

      1. Agreed. They have talent, but they are now tight. Think about the beginning of the year (and last year)…the quick ball movements, loose playing, just awesome. Now they are robots in a system. Perhaps the answer is keep playing Pedulla, Maddox, more Ojiako, and more NGuessan (if he keeps playing like last night). They have fire. The starters (that put us behind in the first half, and lose it for us at the end of games after the backups take the lead) are playing like they are afraid to lose, rather than playing to win.

  17. So Coach Young if Maddox was “terrific” ( your words in your quote) why did he not play any the last 8 minutes of the game? For such an experienced team with 3 seniors and 2 juniors, why are me so poor in the last 5 minutes? Keva has shown all year that when it is crunch time he wilters

    1. Agree – time to stop going with “experience” when it’s bad experience and go with results instead.

  18. Game Summary:

    Final Score: Miami 78, VT 75
    Biggest VT Lead: 6 (67-61)
    Biggest Miami Lead: 11 (20-9)
    Last Lead Change: Miami 78, VT 75
    It Was Over: Miami 78, VT 75

    Points from 10 Free Throws: 9
    Points from 35 Two Point Shots: 36
    Points from 18 Three Point Shots: 33

    Points from 15 Free Throws: 12
    Points from 24 Two Point Shots: 24
    Points from 26 Three Point Shots: 39

    Turnovers, a punch in the gut circus shot from half court at the buzzer, and the Hokies lose again. Another good shooting night goes down the drain, 50% including 13 of 26 from outside the arc. Miami ended the game on an 8-0 run. Yet another late game collapse by VT.

    On to Florida State Saturday, to play the only team to beat Miami in ACC play this season.

    From expectations of another Big Dance, to a question of whether or not we will have a winning record at the end. How things can change.

  19. Yeah, welcome to last place. 4.5-point favorites. Getting hard to watch. Protect the ball and win this game easily. And is there any way we are going to be better next year losing Aluma and Mutts?

    1. I feel badly for them too. But they stink right now. It’s that simple. I don’t think it’s catching a break. They had plenty of chances to extend their lead against Miami, and they didn’t. They put their starters back in and lost the lead and the game.

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