On the night Virginia Tech unveiled its 2022 ACC championship banner in Cassell Coliseum, the Hokies hit 16 3-pointers and beat William & Mary, 94-77.
“[I took] a moment there to consider the blood, sweat and tears that went into it,” Tech head coach Mike Young said of the banner and ACC title. “And to think of [Keve] Aluma and Storm Murphy and those guys that couldn’t make it back, that aren’t with us any longer, Nahiem Alleyne. There are a lot of kids that worked really, really hard. Came here when there were some questions about a number of things. … So [it was a] proud moment.”
Virginia Tech (3-0) jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first three minutes, which provided a cushion for the remainder of the game. Grant Basile, Sean Pedulla, Hunter Cattoor and Darius Maddox each nailed a trey in that span.
At the same time, the Tribe (1-2) started 0-of-9 from the field and turned the ball over twice. It wasn’t until the 15:25-mark that they got on the board, which came from former D-III transfer Anders Nelson.
The Hokies exploded in the first half. They led 57-35 at intermission behind Cattoor’s 17 (he finished the game with 22), drained 11-of-16 threes and shot 66% from the floor. Moreover, they totaled 1.83 points per possession and scored their most points in a first half since 2017 vs. Washington (59).
“Everyone was touching the ball,” Cattoor said after the game. “We were setting good screens and we were playing unselfish basketball. … All it takes is one good screen or one good pass to find someone open and get a good shot.”
In the second period, the Hokies cooled off some. They were just 5-of-16 from long range and 44% overall, but on the baskets they did score, they made the extra pass.
In one sequence, Pedulla faked a shot on the wing and kicked to Cattoor at the top of the key, who drove and dished it back to Pedulla for an open three. A few minutes later, Pedulla drove baseline and found Maddox outside the arc, who swung the ball to Cattoor for the open shot.
“We all enjoy each other’s success,” Pedulla said. “We all want to see each other play well so if I have an extra pass for Darius, I want to see him hit his shot. Sometimes it’s even more rewarding and fulfilling than making a shot yourself. I think we all have those same characteristics. I think that’s what makes a great team.”
William & Mary hung around, though. Dane Fischer’s squad finished 29-of-58 (50%) for the game and knocked down 58% of its opportunities in the second half. And outside of that poor stretch early, the Tribe were 59% for the game.
Nelson led the way with a game-high 25 points, and Young said he looked like Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio. William & Mary made Tech work for it defensively and had a stretch where it made seven consecutive shots. But Tech forced 12 turnovers – and only gave it away seven times itself – and the margin never dropped below 15 points.
The Tribe made it look too easy at times. They outscored Tech by five after recess (42-37) and a chunk (34%) of their points game in the paint, where they occasionally exposed Basile, Mutts, Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat.
“I think it’s just the common theme of getting complacent,” Pedulla said. “I think against Delaware State it was turnovers. Whenever we get that lead, we kind of get complacent, we have to kind of be able to put a complete game together. Just keeping that awareness of finishing the game offensively and defensively.”
However, for the first time since Jan. 29 at Florida State, two Virginia Tech players scored 20-plus points. Ironically, it was the same duo who did it in Tallahassee – Cattoor and Pedulla, who contributed 22 each.
Maddox (14 points) and Basile (13) joined them in double figures, and four different players had at least three assists. Mutts, who only scored two points, led the way with six dimes, while Pedulla (four), Cattoor (three) and Maddox (three) had their share. The Hokies posted 19 assists, the most in a game since their win at Miami in February (21 assists).
The attention now turns to the Charleston Classic where Virginia Tech will play three games in four days. Old Dominion is the first matchup at 2 p.m. on Thursday (ESPN2) and the Hokies will see Furman or Penn State on Friday. Sunday’s matchup will feature one of four teams from the opposite side of the bracket: College of Charleston, Colorado State, Davidson or South Carolina.
It’ll be the 25th all-time meeting between the Hokies and Monarchs, the first since ODU won in Norfolk on Dec. 16, 2007. Young complimented the Old Dominion’s offensive rebounding ability – the Monarchs are No. 23 in offensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom – which is an area Tech’s struggled with so far. William & Mary grabbed 10 offensive boards on Sunday night.
“We’re going to take a step up here in competition, starting with Old Dominion,” Young said. “They have 33 offensive rebounds in their first two games. That is still a question mark for this team. I know that Mutts is going to rebound it every night. We’re going to have to compete there. Do we have what it takes at this point in the season as a unit with our guards?”
While the competition level may vary – Old Dominion and College of Charleston are the only squads below 150 in KenPom – it’ll be a good mixture of opponents, the best Tech’s seen so far this season. Penn State (No. 33), Furman (No. 65) and South Carolina (No. 83) would definitely pose more of a challenge, while Colorado State and Davidson are right around 110.
“Just little things,” Maddox said of what he hopes to see the Hokies improve on in the tournament. “Setting screens, making sure we’re running our plays, we’re not jogging around. Making sure we’re assertive in every aspect of the game.”
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