Virginia Tech Survives Late Surge From Pittsburgh For Third Straight Win

Mike Young and the Hokies have won three straight after Saturday night in Pittsburgh. (Ivan Morozov)

After Virginia Tech’s 76-71 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night, Mike Young said all that matters is the win in the record books.

And he’s right. It wasn’t a pretty result by any means, especially down the stretch, but the Hokies (13-10, 5-7 ACC) got the job done on the road, their third straight victory.

“I’ve said it a couple of times now, the last time I checked, the only thing that matters is the final ledger, and that goes in the scorebook as a Hokie win,” Tech head coach Mike Young said afterwards. “What could go wrong in the second half did go wrong, but it all worked out in the end.”

Up by 27 at halftime, the Hokies looked like they could put the car in neutral and coast the rest of the way. But as good as Virginia Tech was in the first half, Pitt (8-15, 3-9) equaled that in the second.

1st half: VT 75%, Pitt 40%
2nd half: VT 38%, Pitt 71%

The Hokies exploded early thanks to fantastic 3-point shooting. They made 10-of-13 attempts in the first 20 minutes, including eight in a row at one point. The team couldn’t miss, drilling 13 consecutive field goals, and led by double digits for almost 13 minutes.

“We were just aggressive,” Hokies point guard Storm Murphy said. “Our defensive mindset really helped our offense. We were really helping each other, really aggressive on defense. … I felt like we were sharing it, and we tried to put [John] Hugley in ball screens and space the floor, and we knocked down some open shots.”

But the Panthers roared back, a charge spearheaded by Femi Odukale. They outscored Tech 23-9 in the first eight minutes, and in the blink of an eye, the margin was 12.

Odukale, who finished with a game-high 25 points, hit seven of his eight shots and scored 22 in the second half. Jamarius Burton (21 points) added 14 down the stretch, but Pitt didn’t have its go-to option in John Hugley.

Tech did a good job of shutting down the 6-9 sophomore forward, who averages 14.7 points per game. Hugley missed his lone attempt in the first half, and he was held to just two points (1-4) for the game.

“We haven’t doubled the post in quite some time, we just thought it was necessary,” Young said, “or he would foul Mutts and Aluma out by himself. We did a masterful job there.”

Still, the Hokies made the right plays down the stretch to win. That’s also despite 16 turnovers, ten that came in the second half.

Storm Murphy led Tech with 20 points on the road in the team’s third straight win. (Ivan Morozov)

Storm Murphy led the way with 20 points and came up big when needed, especially driving to the rim. Three different times, the fifth-year point guard blew by a Pitt defender and attacked the basket, something that hasn’t been common this season. But he scored each time, giving his team a lift.

Murphy also had three of Tech’s last five field goals, including a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to nine, and made three free throws in the final 46 seconds to preserve the victory.

“I think just having that aggressive mindset to make plays,” Murphy said of what propelled him down the stretch. “I had some opportunities, and thankfully they went down. … Just trying to really share the ball, … and we got a lot of good looks.”

It was another quiet night for Keve Aluma, similar to his performance at Florida State a week prior. He only attempted four shots and scored just six points, so Tech needed some other guys to step up.

Justyn Mutts (16 points) and Nahiem Alleyne (14) really helped carry the weight. Mutts did turn the ball over eight times – four in each half – but he hit two 3-pointers, made five of his ten field goals, and made four-of-six free throw attempts. Alleyne drained four triples on seven attempts and had a really efficient game.

Tech also received a boost from its bench, an aspect that’s gradually come to life as of late. Darius Maddox (nine points), Sean Pedulla (five) and David N’Guessan combined for 17 points, which was huge. The trio outscored Pitt’s reserves 17-2.

Darius Maddox had nine points for the Hokies off the bench at Pitt. (Ivan Morozov)

The Hokies have also controlled the boards in three of their last four games. It’s understandable to not win the rebounding battle against Florida State and four seven-footers, but Young’s crew has been good in that area outside of that.

In mid-January, the Hokies were outrebounded by 15 at Boston College and 11 at North Carolina. Since? A plus-six margin vs. Miami, plus-10 vs. Georgia Tech, plus-eight at Pitt.

“Those rebounding numbers can’t tell the whole story,” Young said. “We shot 75% in the first half. There aren’t many balls coming off the rim. I’m not sure that Pittsburgh had an offensive rebound, and that was a big point of emphasis coming into this game. They’ve got men, now. They are men.

“That might be the biggest key to the whole thing – we’re rebounding the ball better, we’re competing on the glass better, we’re coming up with more 50-50 balls. That’s another possession for us that they don’t have.”

Now Virginia Tech’s attention turns to… well, Pitt. The Hokies and Panthers meet again on Monday for the second time in three days due to the initial matchup on Jan. 1 being rescheduled due to COVID. It’s another 7 p.m. tip on the ACC Network, and Young & Co. are searching for their fourth straight win.

“Definitely a sense of relief to come out with the W, especially after they came out firing in the second,” Murphy said. “Happy to come out of here with the W, that’s the bottom line, but a lot to look at. We can’t be up 27 and give that up.”

Box Score: Link

20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I’d like to see us simply build and maintain a lead gradually over the entire course of the game. Not too hot and not so flat but just steadily superior.

  2. Most disappointing win I’ve ever seen. You have to have a killer instinct and WANT to continue beating a team as bad as you previously were. You can’t feel sorry for the opponent or rest on your laurels. You have to play the game “in the moment” every time, and every time show the guy across from you that you and your team are better than him and their team. It shouldn’t matter how far up you are. No lazy passes. No lazy rebounding. No lazy free throw shooting. No lazy defense. No lazy offense. That’s what I felt almost the entire second half out of this team. No intensity at all. This is indicative of this team’s psychology having lost several games at the end. It’s weird. Do they just “think” they are better and because of that “thought” they will win? Anyways…

    All that said…I think we crush Pitt tonight. I think we have something to prove after that ridiculous meltdown and lack of effort in the second half of that last game.

  3. I think we are going to have our hands full on Monday. I expect a very close game. I was surprised that we didn’t call a time out earlier in the second half after Pitt started whittling our lead away.

  4. Didn’t we miss 3 front ends of 1 and 1 at the end? Geez. And Mutts had 8 TOs which is a really big number for someone doesn’t handle the ball that much. He makes some nice passes but many of them are risky.

    Still, great to win. Once again our lack of athleticism hurts us when other teams turn up the heat late in games. We need all the lead we can get early on. Crazily, we still have a chance to finish 5th in the league which is where we were picked pre-season.

    1. Missed the second FT followed by two missed 1&1s followed by the first of 2 for a total of 6 points left behind. I heard during the broadcast that Mutts leads the team in assists. But still, 8?

  5. Concerned. I agree a W is a W, but is not being able to counter one or more big runs at the end of a game concerning to anyone else? David, thanks for a coverage of the entire game as opposed to the half that TechSports did.

    1. A sloppy win, too many turnovers. This is our Achilles heel. Not a fan of Bobby Knight but he was often tougher on his teams when they won than when they lost. Very

  6. What’s going on with the one side of Pitts home court. Both teams shot above 70% on the left side of our TV screens. Very strange!

    1. It was a strange game. Each team had a 49 point half, cancelling each other out. In each teams other half, we outscored them 27 to 22. I’ll take the 5 point win.

  7. Yeah, it’s a win but it was very close to the biggest choke in our history. I was bouncing between anger and nausea the whole second half.

  8. I expect PITT to give us two-second halfs, like the 2nd half on Sat. We need another W, however we can get ithe W. GO HOKIES!!!!

  9. Good job all the way round, esp. on D and making their big guy a non factor. I am a little anxious what Pitt’s coach might dial up for Monday’s game. Hope we can fill Cassell.

  10. I think the TSL podcast hit it on the nail a few weeks ago, our reserves weren’t contributing to the score and now they are. VT just seems to be getting tired – physically and mentally – and if those guys can come in and score 17 that obviously takes a load off of the starters, Alumna and Mutts in particular.

    1. Early on the reserved didn’t get many minutes. It’s hard to have an impact sitting on the bench. The rotations have improved greatly since the early part of the season.

  11. Game Summary:

    VT PIT
    76 71 Final Score
    42 27 From Three Point Shots
    24 32 From Two Point Shots
    10 12 From Free Throws

    Biggest VT Lead: 28 (52-24)
    Biggest PIT Lead: N/A
    Last Tie: N/A
    Last Lead Change: VT 3, PIT 0
    It Was Over: VT 72, PIT 61

    The Hokies contiuned their recent scorching of the nets in the first half, made their first 10 of 12 from downtown, and never trailed, pretty much putting this one away super early! The Panthers did start the second half with a furious run, eventually getting the deficit down to 3 very late, but that is as close as Pitt would get. The Hokies held on in a game that should have been simply *over* at the half, and won their third in a row, two of those games being on the road!

    After that Miami halfcourt miracle disappointment, things have turned around for VT! The mood in Blacksburg has certainly changed! The Hokies look to keep this thing rolling, playing Pitt again Monday in Cassell, to kick off a four game home stand!

  12. “… all that matters is the win in the record books…”

    It’s not when you score your points either – nor how pretty they are.

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