Back in October at the ACC Tipoff in Charlotte, Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young called Justyn Mutts a difference maker.
The fifth-year senior from Millville, N.J. has been crucial to the Hokies’ success this season. Through 24 games, Mutts averaged 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
On Saturday against Syracuse, he had the game of his life. Mutts became the second player in school history to record a triple-double, totaling 12 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, in Virginia Tech’s 71-59 win over Syracuse.
He joins Chris Clarke, who had the school’s first triple-double on Dec. 17, 2016. Only Clarke did it against The Citadel. Mutts did it in conference play, and he got it in style, off an alley-oop from Hunter Cattoor.
𝗡𝗢𝗪 𝗧𝗛𝗔𝗧 𝗜𝗦 𝗛𝗢𝗪 𝗬𝗢𝗨 𝗚𝗘𝗧 𝗔 𝗧𝗥𝗜𝗣𝗟𝗘 𝗗𝗢𝗨𝗕𝗟𝗘 🤯@JM_Squarepants = #SCTop10 Machine
📺 » ESPN2#StoneByStone | #Hokies 🦃 pic.twitter.com/5pYmg7GADf
— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) February 13, 2022
“It feels amazing, it’s my first one,” Mutts said of his first career triple-double at any level. “I was aware, but I was just trying to get the win. … I was more-so concerned with trying to push the lead.”
Like Clarke when he played for Tech under Buzz Williams, Mutts has great awareness and court vision, along with being a solid passer. He’s had some sloppy games here and there, however, like two contests prior at Pittsburgh when he had eight turnovers.
Against Jim Boeheim’s infamous 2-3 zone, Young plugged Mutts into the middle of the defense at the free throw line. He operated well in there, and with that Pitt game in the back of his head, he finished with a career-high 11 assists. And he only turned the ball over once.
“The poise of that person in that slot is everything, and I moved Keve [Aluma] in there some,” Young said afterwards. “Keve’s a really good passer and decision maker. And then I’m a brilliant basketball tactician. I see at halftime Mutts has eight assists, one turnover. Thought we better keep him in there a little bit more than anybody else.
“He was really, really good. Rebounded the ball, 14 rebounds. Just all over the place. … Just active. He was ready to roll from the opening tip, and great night for him.”
Virginia Tech (15-10, 7-7 ACC) finished with 20 assists on 23 made baskets. On top of that, the Hokies turned the ball over just four times, a season-low.
They were patient, took their time and worked the zone. Though they didn’t shoot lights out – a 38.3% clip, 23-of-60 – they got the looks they wanted. Time and time again.
“I feel like that’s where a lot of my assists came from,” Mutts said, describing his team’s offensive game. “Guys moving, not staying stagnant. Making their zone spread out as well. … Just tried to make the right play every time. One thing we’ve been focusing on a lot lately is just hit the singles. Don’t try to hit a home run every time you get the ball.
“You’ll win a lot of games when you take care of the ball like that.”
Tech dominated points in the paint (26-16), and despite only making just one 3-pointer in the second half (8-of-27 for the game), the team continued to get good looks. Most importantly, Young’s crew found a way to the free throw line, and they made them when they counted. 13-of-16 in the second half, 17-of-21 for the game.
Five VT players scored in double figures, headlined by Aluma’s 20 points. Cattoor had 14, Nahiem Alleyne dropped 11, and Darius Maddox added ten off the bench.
And for the fifth time in six games, the Hokies controlled the boards. Against Syracuse (13-12, 7-7), both teams recorded 41 rebounds, but it’s been a growing trend as of late that Virginia Tech has won the battle – or at least broke even – on the glass.
“I was nervous about that,” Young said. “Syracuse, they really go. They really go get it. [Cole] Swider and Jimmy [Boeheim] and they’re physical in there. We made a real emphasis on that category going into the game, and I thought all-in-all, pretty good.
“We’re playing a little bit better basketball. If you had to ask me what’s the difference, we’re just rebounding the ball better. More physical box outs and tougher on the glass.”
The Hokies had stifling defense, too. Syracuse made 24 of its 64 attempts (37.5%) from the field and was 10-of-27 from three (37%), and the numbers cooled down in the second half. Buddy Boeheim (21 points, 8-19 FG, 4-10 3FG) and Joe Girard (16 points, 6-14 FG, 4-7 3FG) carried the Orange, but it wasn’t enough.
Tech was connected defensively, a key that the team has harped on and mentioned over this five-game winning streak. Playing as a unit on that end of the floor has been so crucial, and that was present again on Saturday.
“I thought we did a good job staying connected, following the gameplan,” Mutts said. “Our coaches were giving us different … defenses that we switch up at any given time, and for our team, I think we do a really good job of being on the same page and knowing what we’re doing.”
And in the blink of an eye, the Hokies are back to .500 in the ACC. 17 days ago, they were 2-7 in the league after Miami’s Charlie Moore drilled a half-court buzzer-beater. Now? 7-7 with six games to play, three of which come at home.
Virginia Tech is on the bubble and is continuing to make its NCAA Tournament case. Powered by intense defense, good ball movement, wicked 3-point shooters and a squad filled with triple-double talent, the Hokies are hot.
Virginia, whom Tech lost to by two, 54-52, in Charlottesville on Jan. 12, is the next challenge on Monday.
“We’re on the bubble, so we just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Mutts said. “Can’t let up and can’t get content.”
Box Score: Link
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One of the best things this team did was they didn’t really leave “free points on the court.” You preach that all the way back to peewee bball. It can make or break a game. Free throws anyone can make with enough practice. And (in theory) not one should be missed. A team shouldn’t leave any points on the court…VT proved just how valuable FT points are! Of course every other element is key as well. But when a team only misses 4 of their 21 FT…and the other team misses a lot all of theirs…well, what can you say! Just like football, Beamer proved there are 3 key elements Defense, Offense and special teams…Basketball it’s Defense, Offense and taking advantage of every FT you get!
I’m so proud of everything these bball boys have done over the past several weeks!
That had to be the longest in game interview in the history of televised basketball during the second half. I listen to all games on mute and then I go sound if I want a replay. They completely ignored the game to ask nostalgia questions to a guy who didn’t play basketball!
The track and field Hokie must of been thinking I’m part of the broadcast team maybe they will pay me for my ten minutes of fame.
ACCN commentators specifically and commentators in general seem to be all color and little play-by-play these days. For example, you rarely hear who commits fouls and how many they have.
The Hokies came to play, and never let up against Cuse. Justin Mutts is the VT player who is in the game from start to finish, and he gives it his all. He is appreciated. It’s great to see the outstanding offense and defense from ALL the Hokies in this game. Let’s carry that attitude on against Virginia Monday night, with a sell-out crowd of Hokies. Go Hokies!!!
Very Important Game going in and We Delivered.
This is one of the better Hokie Bball victories in recent memory. Mutts was great. If he hits a few more of those 13 footers, we win by 20 or more. Even though he was great, they left him open at the end trying to cut his passes off. That was the better defense. Would love to see him on a day that he is on fire shooting [although 5-10 is not bad, but from that range could be better].
Great Win! Great Team Win – good minutes from the bench as well.
71 59 Final Score
24 30 From Three Point Shots
30 28 From Two Point Shots
17 01 From Free Throws
Biggest VT Lead: 14 (71-57)
Biggest SYR Lead: 3 (23-20)
Last Tie (of 2): 54-54
Last Lead Change: VT 56, SYR 54
It Was Over: VT 60, SYR 54
The Hokies stayed on a roll, winning their fifth in a row! Bring on UVA!
The team is playing their best ball at crunch time in the season. Keep it rolling.
Nice win. Solid on offense: minimal TO’s; do not recall a single, what I consider a, bad shot. Love the physicality on defense: body up; move the feet; don’t reach. Play D like that tomorrow & the whiners from C-ville will be crybabying like the Boeheims.
Why did Storm play so little?
Was it personal decision instead of injury?
Too short to play against SU BIG guards!
Yes, we needed more size to defend
Keep the turnovers down…especially at the end of games.
I noticed the subbed in Maddox for Storm with about 5 to play. Bigger on defense and, along with Mutts, fueled the late surge.
Only four (4!) turnovers!!!
Yes, yes, yes, THAT was good to see for a change!
That, along with 20 assists on 23 made baskets, is how VT managed to win this game. SU is always a tough out for the Hokies. If this team can continue to play error free and share the basketball, they’ll do well. Unfortunately, it’s pretty tough to maintain those kind of stats; especially against tougher competition.
Good game, and Syracuse is playing pretty hard too, So good game all around. What the clip doesn’t show is that VT went on a little run after that to build the lead again, that play of course lit up the crowd.
As a side note, check out the TV broadcast in the beginning before the tip when the students were hammering out Sandman. There in the middle of the tv screen was your own Nick Brown belting out the Exit Light, Enter Night refrain….
Nick often occupies the 4th chair on the TSL Podcast.
One minor comment. The way Syracuse really plays the zone, it is more a 4-1 that morphs to a 3-2. For much of games, there are 4 players high:
what a game! we were up at half by around 9 and the Orange made a run to tie it up but then we had a run to put us up by 8ish. Great passing tonight and only two turnovers. Now we need to beat those wahoos!
LOVE our community.
Our offense shredded their defense. If we had not had an off-night shooting we would have blown them out. It was a great scheme executed by smart players. It was clear Syracuse was willing to give up 2s to keep us from getting in rhythm on 3s and we made them pay. They made small adjustments but we always had answers.
Was psyched to see Cattoor and Maddox in the backcourt late in the game. Pedulla and Murphy weren’t shining and I think Maddox’s defense is improving and gives us more size and quickness. We now have good depth at 1 and 2 and can use them comfortably given how they are playing and the matchup.
Syracuse has a worse depth problem than we do and their starters play a lot more minutes than ours most in the league. That may have worked in our favor at the end, something that was hurting us in our 2-7 [email protected]
Let’s go Hokies!
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