In his first game in a Virginia Tech uniform, Grant Basile impressed on Monday night. The Wright State transfer posted a double-double with 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Hokies in their 95-57 win.
It was pretty smooth sailing for Tech, who had three players score in double figures. Sean Pedulla (18 points, eight assists) and Darius Maddox (14 points) complemented Basile, and the team hummed offensively. The Hokies shot 14-of-28 from distance and 33-of-60 from the field.
Individually, Basile was 6-of-9, and Pedulla contributed five 3-pointers on eight attempts. Tech (1-0) didn’t make many mistakes – it finished the first half with one turnover – until late in the second half when things got a little sloppy and Mike Young went deeper into the rotation.
Defensively, however, Young wanted more from his team. Delaware State (0-1) shot just 39% from the floor and Tech ran away with the game, but baskets came too easy at times, especially in the interior. Tech was without forward Justyn Mutts, who served a one-game suspension for participation in a non-NCAA certified event, and it was obvious the team missed his presence on defense at times.
“He shot it well, okay,” Young said of Basile after the victory. “He played a good ball game, taking nothing away from from him. But you know he’s gonna have to guard better. I don’t know how many gave up, but he doesn’t have the right look yet defensively. He’s capable and we’ll get him there.
“I don’t want to play ever again in my career without Mutts. I’m gnashing my teeth and mad as a hornet at the half because I didn’t think we guarded very well. … And then it dawned on me – you’re playing without, I think, the best defender in the ACC.”
Mutts’ defensive acumen and IQ are unmatched, but it wasn’t on display in the opener. Instead, Lynn Kidd got his first career start. The Gainesville, Fla. native was a bucket away from a double-double, finishing with eight points and 10 rebounds.
He was one half of the frontcourt rotation. Rice transfer Mylyjael Poteat saw 17 minutes and gave Tech nine points and four boards. Overall, Basile, Kidd and Poteat gave Young a sense of what the Hokies are like without Mutts.
“I thought it was very positive,” Young said of the different looks Tech saw on Monday. “It’s going to take me a bit to get my arms around the rotation up there, I like the options that that we have. Lynn played 22 tonight, Mylyjael played 16. That’s a bit skewed with the two quick fouls in the first half for Mylyjael. But those two guys take up space and they’re tough and Lynn had 10 rebounds tonight. But Mutts makes the whole thing purr.”
Like Kidd, Pedulla and Maddox made their first collegiate starts against the Hornets; it was the 42nd career start for Hunter Cattoor. The Hokies didn’t struggle to score, posting 56 points in the first half on 63% shooting. The percentages dipped in the latter 20 minutes, dropping to 46% from the field and 33% from deep, but Tech led by more than 30 for the majority of the second half.
Pedulla had a solid game running point after Young said he struggled some in the preseason. The sophomore is finally the guy at the point guard spot after learning behind veteran Storm Murphy last year. But in his first opportunity in 2022-23, he made the most of it, and while he had a silly turnover or two, he looked like himself.
“He played a good ballgame,” Young said of Pedulla. “I thought tonight was more a Sean Pedulla night, took what was given to him, distributed – eight assists – with two turnovers. I thought he had an awfully good floor game.”
True freshman MJ Collins and redshirt freshman John Camden both saw a good chunk of minutes for Virginia Tech, combining for four points, three boards and two assists. But Young didn’t use everyone on the bench as one might’ve expected. While eight scholarship players saw the floor, Young also played three walk-ons in Camden Johnson, Owen Dawyot and Michael Ward. Freshmen Patrick Wessler and Darren Buchanan Jr. did not play, and Young said the plan is to redshirt both guys.
All-in-all, the season-opener went how Virginia Tech expected. Lehigh and William & Mary await on Thursday and Sunday, respectively, before the Hokies play in the Charleston Classic in two weekends. But with Mutts returning (and adding a much-appreciated boost), Monday was a good opportunity to get a sense of what this team can do without him.
“We looked pretty good offensively tonight because we made a bunch of shots,” Young said. “We made 14 threes. We’ve still got a ways to go there. Let’s call it like it is: a good win. Another big one on Thursday. We’ve got to continue to get better.”
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