Entering Tuesday night’s contest in Cassell Coliseum between Virginia Tech and Louisville, there were a myriad of storylines.
The Hokies had lost 17 straight games in the series, dating back to Feb. 1991. The Cardinals were losers of their last nine ACC road games. And Tech, sitting squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, couldn’t afford to slip up.
Back against the wall, a common theme in Blacksburg since mid-January, Virginia Tech looked like the team many know it can be, cruising past Louisville in a 75-43 win. The victory is the ninth in the last ten tries and clinches a winning conference record for the Hokies (19-11, 11-8 ACC).
“You’ve heard me say it,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the win. “I hoped like crazy that we’d figure it out and play better basketball, [said] that it would be a beautiful thing to witness and that’s what’s occurred. Good ball game tonight.”
It’s been highlighted plenty, but the turnaround job by Mike Young and his program has been incredible. On Jan. 26, they lost to Miami on a half-court heave on Jan. 26 and hit rock bottom in the league with a 2-7 record. Five weeks later, they crushed Louisville by 32, the second-largest margin of victory by the program in an ACC contest.
Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma have both previously mentioned how dark of a place the team was in back then. Young’s preached that every game is a “Super Bowl.” Mutts also said he and his teammates have played with a sense of “desperocity” – a word he coined when trying to speak to the players’ desperate mindset in the last ten games.
The team’s mantra was on display in its dominating win over the Cardinals in the final home game of the regular season. What’s more is Tech has now accomplished a feat no ACC team ever has: finishing above .500 in league play after starting 2-7.
“It feels amazing considering and always keeping in mind all of the people that counted us out,” Mutts said of clinching a winning conference record. “All that is just motivation, it’s just more fuel to the fire. I know I keep that in mind. We didn’t forget about it, so we’re just trying to prove everyone wrong.”
Maybe most impressive is how easy that 11th win seemed to come. Louisville (12-17, 6-13) isn’t a quality win, but the Hokies played one of their more complete games this season.
The Cardinals finished with more turnovers (18) than field goals (17). Tech outrebounded them by eight, 36-28. And outside of 6-8 forward Sydney Curry, who scored 18 points (8-of-12 FG) and grabbed 11 boards, Louisville was 9-of-35 (26%) with 17 rebounds.
“Curry’s a load, holy cow,” Young said. “I think he had 13 at the half. He had 28 Saturday at Wake Forest. I thought we did a really nice job on Curry in the second half. Guarded the arc well, they do not shoot the ball great. … But our team played well.”
“I thought it was just gritty, everybody just helping each other,” Mutts said of Tech’s defense. “There were so many times I went to help my teammate and I just had blind faith in my teammate coming to help me. They were there every time. Just stuff like that, little stuff like that makes you more confident in your team. I trust these guys so much.”
On top of that, Virginia Tech looked like itself again offensively.
In the five games prior to Tuesday, the Hokies were 25.8% from 3-point range, averaging 6.4 makes on 24 attempts from deep per game. They also turned the ball over 32 times in their two road games at Georgia Tech and Miami.
Against the Cardinals, the shots went down. Six players made a 3-pointer, headlined by Darius Maddox hitting 3-of-4. As a team, Tech shot a 42.9% clip and made 12-of-28 attempts. That’s double the average of makes from distance over this last stretch. And turnovers?
Just eight, and two were shot clock violations, turnovers credited to the team.
“I thought the ball moved quite well, and we’ve got a number of guys,” Young said. “There’s a reason why we get people to the basket, because that thing spreads out because of Maddox and Murphy and Pedulla and Alleyne.”
Everything seemed to click for Virginia Tech.
Mutts led the way with a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks). Aluma was consistent, per usual: 11 points, four rebounds, two blocks, one assist. Maddox had 11 points, Nahiem Alleyne and Sean Pedulla scored nine, Storm Murphy added eight and Hunter Cattoor dropped seven.
Nine different players scored, including David N’Guessan and Lynn Kidd (two points each). In addition, ten players grabbed a rebound (five guys had at least four boards), and seven recorded an assist.
“To see that distribution, they like each other,” Young said. “They enjoy playing with each other and enjoy seeing a teammate succeed. Last time I checked, that’s what team sports are all about.”
As the college basketball adage goes, teams want to be playing their best basketball in March. It wasn’t perfect, but Virginia Tech did just about everything right against Louisville.
That’s good news in Blacksburg, bad news for the rest of the ACC. Clemson awaits in Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, and then it’s off to Brooklyn and the ACC Tournament. And if the Hokies can continue this run of form, they’ll have a good chance at dancing come Selection Sunday.
“It’s through the roof right now,” Mutts said of his team’s confidence. “Perfect time for us to really be hitting our stride. We’re trying to get off the bubble, we’re trying to solidify ourselves. We don’t want the ACC Tournament to be the only way we can get in, so we need to just keep playing hard.”
Box Score: Link
13 Responses You are logged in as Test
Still next 4 out. Can’t make that up in one game against a lower tier team. Losses to BC and NC State could be the difference unless we win 3 games in ACC tournament. Hopeful, but not optimistic. Should get a 1 or 2 seed in NIT.
I think I speak for everyone when I say: We love high percentage dunks. Lots of them. And we are getting lots of them. Ha!
Young has coached up David N’Guessan very well. Up until 2 or 3 weeks ago he was just a body not doing too much. Since then, he’s been more aggressive both offensively and defensively and he’s really doing some good stuff. He will be a huge asset for the team next year if he keeps progressing, and particularly if he gains 20 pounds in the off-season…he’ll become a MONSTER.
Noticed that Haynes didn’t get in last night. Is he redshirting?
Haynes wasn’t on the bench. Young said that he’s dealing with some academic things at the moment.
Incredible turn around by CMY was finally realizing he needed to double the playing time for Pedulla and Maddox.
No it was gradually increasing their time so they ready.
Meh, he’s doing what coaches do, make sure players earn time. Sure, maybe their improvement outraced CMYs trust in them, but otoh maybe there’s one last bad habit coach wants to break which will pay dividends for the rest of their careers.
As a coach he’s reaching his goal, playing good basketball in March.
Keep it up, Clemson task will be MUCH tougher.
75 43 Final Score
36 18 From Three Point Shots
32 22 From Two Point Shots
07 03 From Free Throws
Biggest VT Lead: 32 (75-43)
Biggest FSU Lead: 2 (2-0)
Last Tie: None
Last Lead Change: VT 3, LOU 2
It Was Over: VT 44, LOU 27
For the first time since just before Michael Jordan got the first of his six NBA Championsips, the Hokies beat the Cardinals. They broke the 17 game losing streak, in style! What a beatdown! Tech moved to 19-11 (11-8 ACC) with this severe thrashing, getting that monkey off their backs, much like winning at Florida State for also the first time in three decades, a game that began this current 9 out of 10 streak! From last in the League, to finishing at least 7th and maybe 6th! This team is peaking, at just the right time! On to Clemson Saturday!
What is the “biggest FSU Lead” in your recap?
Great win by the Hokies
Well done guys
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