Virginia Tech Handles Georgia Tech For Fourth ACC Victory

Storm Murphy helped lead the Hokies with 18 points against Georgia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

It wasn’t pretty for the full 40 minutes, but Virginia Tech created a large lead and clung to it in its 81-66 win over Georgia Tech.

The Hokies turned the ball over 14 times, including six instances in the first ten minutes of the game, but shot well: 53% from the floor, 40% from three.

But it was two runs that helped Mike Young & Co. (12-10, 4-7 ACC) pull away from the Yellow Jackets (9-12, 2-8). In the first half, it was a 15-2 spurt over 4:51. An identical 13-2 stretch in the second half that spanned 3:46 kept Josh Pastner’s bunch at bay, giving Young his first-ever win over Georgia Tech.

“We were able to get behind their [1-3-1] zone,” Young said afterwards. “They’re so loaded up top with that zone, they do a nice job with it, we were able to get behind it with some things and we had a favorable matchup. Coach Pastner wanted to play a smaller lineup a couple of times and get Rodney [Howard] off the floor and we were able to find that matchup.”

Keve Aluma led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds, while Storm Murphy had a solid outing with 18. The former Wofford duo combined to score 42 points, and it was Murphy who really got things rolling. He made three straight treys to start the contest and finished 6-of-10 with three rebounds and three assists.

Murphy’s 18 ties his season-high in points, which was set back in December in Charlotte vs. St. Bonaventure. It’s also the first time he’s scored in double figures since Tech’s win over Notre Dame, and the zone defense seemed to open the game up for him.

“He was good,” Young said of Murphy. “Got stuck with the ball a couple of times, but he had a nifty reverse layup in there.

“We were able to find some cavities [in the zone], and he does a really nice job of sliding into those cavities and he gets a blink, he gets the thing in the air, and he can really, really shoot the ball. Really unselfish play from everyone on the floor.”

Maybe most impressive was that Virginia Tech shot 22 free throws. The Hokies took 12 in the first half, which is a major difference from only attempting two in the first half of the previous game. Tech made 17-of-22, and Young said there was a more concerted effort to drive it to the post.

On top of that, with the exception of John Ojiako, every Hokie that touched the floor on Wednesday night scored.

Justyn Mutts has been steady for Virginia Tech over the past few games. (Ivan Morozov)

Justyn Mutts had another big, yet under-the-radar performance with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Hunter Cattoor added eight points after a career night in Tallahassee (27 points, 9-11 3FG), while David N’Guessan had seven points and seven boards. Darius Maddox (six points), Nahiem Alleyne and Sean Pedulla (three points each) all contributed, too.

Against Florida State, Cattoor and Pedulla stole the show while Aluma was in foul trouble. Versus the Yellow Jackets, Aluma and Murphy led the way. Mutts was a steady contributor in both games, but it shows that Tech has different options that can score on every given night.

“I think that we are seeing this team continue to evolve,” Young said. “We’re 22 games into this thing and here in February we’ve got some different guys stepping forward and giving us quality play. … We’re coming along here, we’re coming along.”

While VT really exploited GT’s zone, it also put together a solid performance on the defensive end. Michael Devoe, last year’s ACC Tournament MVP, was unconscious and dropped 30 points, even with Cattoor in his face. He was outstanding and reminded everyone around the ACC what he can do.

“Kid had 30, he’s capable now,” Young said of Devoe. “He’s averaging 15 coming in, hadn’t shot the ball great in league play, 22%, and lights our tail up for five. I thought Hunter did a really nice job on him. Kid’s talented, and sometimes good offense beats good defense.”

However, outside of him, the Hokies really shut down anything Pastner & Co. wanted to do.

Devoe was 11-of-19 (57.9%) while the rest of his team was 13-of-41 (32%). No one else scored in double figures, and Jordan Usher, Georgia Tech’s other important weapon, played much of the game in foul trouble. He picked up his fourth personal less than two minutes into the second half, which didn’t make life easy for the Yellow Jackets.

Usher made just 3-of-12 baskets, and though Kyle Sturdivant (4-of-5) shot the ball well and scored nine points, GT couldn’t find a consistent presence outside of Devoe.

“I thought we defended really well,” Young said. “Usher’s very, very good. Aggressive, tough, and he was saddled with fouls all night long. Josh played him with three fouls in the first half for quite a few minutes.”

Mike Young and his bunch seem to be finding a groove here as of late. (Ivan Morozov)

The victory marks Virginia Tech’s fourth conference win and second in a row. Now, a favorable schedule awaits, starting with back-to-back games against Pitt – away on Saturday, home on Monday – in the next few days. That home contest vs. the Panthers is the first of a four-game stand in Cassell Coliseum with Syracuse, Virginia and North Carolina to follow. After that in late February, a return trip to Georgia Tech and Atlanta awaits.

Winning in the ACC is never easy, but this stretch isn’t the gauntlet that it could be if the league was at its peak. And if the Hokies can string a few more wins together like they’ve been doing, their NET rating (No. 51 entering Wednesday) will continue to rise, which is crucial for their postseason chances. The key: focus on the next game and finish in the last few minutes.

“I think that and they’re working really, really hard,” Young said. “We understand we’ve had some setbacks, but that’s the game. That’s college athletics. Great life lessons. Hang in there. Sun’s going to come up in the morning. You’ve got to fight and plug. Pull for one another. They’ve done that, and another good win for us.”

Box Score: Link

10 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Gotta give Storm a ton of credit. I think at times he’s overmatched but he’s a gamer. He’s hung in there and produced. Good kid!

  2. “And if the Hokies can string a few more wins together like they’ve been doing, their NET rating (No. 51 entering Wednesday) will continue to rise, which is crucial for their postseason chances.”

    Are we sure? The average net of the teams coming up is into the 100s. Could we win 4 straight and still fall in the net?

    1. Need to win them all by double digits, can’t squeak out any wins without falling in the NET

      1. And we are 0-4 in Quad 1 wins with only 2 left on our schedule…[email protected] and @Clemson and both could easily fall to Quad 2 when we play them. I guess UNC could go up to a Quad 1 if they keep winning. The only way out of this hole we dug is to win almost all of our remaining games.

  3. David, thank you for mentioning the importance of FT’s, 17 made tonight vs 12 TO’s (Buzz stat). Good team effort last night, but we need to take care of the ball better, especially at the end of the game.

    1. Game Summary:

      VT GT
      81 66 Final Score
      24 30 From Three Point Shots
      40 28 From Two Point Shots
      17 08 From Free Throws

      Biggest VT Lead: 22 (63-41)
      Biggest GT Lead: 1 (7-6)
      Last Tie (of 9): 23-23
      Last Lead Change: VT 24, GT 23
      It Was Over: VT 67, GT 53

      The Hokies continued the momentum they found in Tallahassee, breaking open a game that was close early, and pretty much cruising from there to a 15 point win. Let’s hope they keep rollin’ at Pittsburgh this weekend!

  4. Best stat: ZERO 3-point attempts by Mutts & Aluma. We got FT’s because we attacked the basket.

    Very good win, onto PITT. GO HOKIES!!!

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