In its first game in the Charleston Classic on Thursday, Virginia Tech was tested by Old Dominion in multiple ways. But despite a poor second half, the Hokies fended off a late run from the Monarchs in the 75-71 win.
“We have some guys that we rely on who are really good players that had not played very well, but they rose up and made big plays when we needed it most,” Tech head coach Mike Young said afterwards. “Encouraged by that. We’ll get a lot out of that experience that maybe we wouldn’t have had we beaten them by 20-24, which it looked like where it was headed.”
In the first 20 minutes, Tech (4-0) was hot on both ends of the floor. It made 15 of its 31 field goal attempts (48.4%) and six 3-pointers. Hunter Cattoor and Grant Basile each scored eight points while Hokies had nine assists to three turnovers. Moreover, despite Cattoor picking up two quick fouls, the group was solid defensively, holding ODU (2-2) to 28.6% shooting.
Yet, the lead, which blossomed to 20 after the Hokies outscored the Monarchs 31-11 over a 12:25-span, shrank right before the break. Just when it seemed like they were going to deliver the knockout punch in TD Arena, Old Dominion responded.
With an 18-point lead, Young gave Sean Pedulla and Cattoor a breather around the two-minute mark, replacing them with MJ Collins and John Camden. But the five of Collins, Darius Maddox, Camden, Justyn Mutts and Mylyjael Poteat on the court (and Lynn Kidd, who subbed in) turned the ball over twice (both Mutts) and allowed six points. At intermission, Tech led 39-25.
“Big flip up 18 into half, had a chance to get Pedulla and Cattoor off the floor with two fouls,” Young said. “That’s a minus four flip on that instance, which hurt. We come out, we got the ball to start the second half and had a good possession, but not very good from our team. We’ve got to play a lot better.”
All of a sudden, ODU had life again. Jeff Jones & Co. proceeded to use their physicality, something Tech struggled to handle in spurts.
And the Hokies, who were efficient early, only scored on back-to-back possessions once in the first 14 minutes of the second period. ODU guard Chaunce Jenkins had his way, too, scoring 24 points (10-of-15), grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists. It didn’t really matter if Tech had a hand in his face – he had 16 second-half points and came up with some clutch baskets.
“He’s a shifty guy,” Young said of Jenkins, a Newport News native. “Kind of like the kid from William & Mary [Anders Nelson], he gets a couple down and we’ve got to do a better job start to finish. I thought we did a really nice job on him and them in the first half, but he started feeling good and he touched us up in the second half.”
Before anyone knew it, the lead was six, 58-52, with 5:56 remaining. ODU outscored Tech 46-36 in the second half, played good defense and couldn’t seem to miss.
The Monarchs were dominant on the boards, too, which was expected – Young noted on Sunday night after the win over William & Mary that ODU made a living on the glass. But Tech was still outrebounded 46-32.
“Obviously, they’re a really physical team,” Basile, who recorded 15 points, said. “I thought we did a good job in the first half, kind of matching that physicality. In the second half, we obviously didn’t play very well, we let them back into the game. I think we just we just need to continue to bring it.”
Young made a smart decision to call timeout and rally his troops at that moment. Less than a minute later, it paid off. Old Dominion switched to a 1-3-1 zone, forcing Tech to adjust on the fly. However, Pedulla appeared to do so with ease, and he found Maddox in the corner for an open 3-pointer.
For the remainder of the game, the two sides traded buckets. Jenkins hit a three, Maddox nailed one of his own. Jenkins got a layup to fall, Pedulla knocked down a jumper. The Edmond, Okla. product finished with a team-high 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
It was within the last minute of the game that Tech was really tested, though. ODU cut the lead to four via two free throws with 34 seconds to play. Pedulla was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Mutts tapped the miss outside to Cattoor, who dished it to Pedulla, who was fouled with 29 seconds left. Pedulla missed the first free throw and made the second to extend Tech’s lead to 71-66.
After a missed ODU three-pointer, Poteat grabbed the rebound with 18 seconds to go, was fouled and hit two clutch shots from the charity stripe, his only points in the game. 13 seconds later, Cattoor sank two free throws to seal the victory.
“That rebound and two foul shots from Mylyjael was huge,” Young said. “Cattoor’s got to step up there up two and get those down and he did. I thought Pedulla made some good plays down the stretch, Maddox hits two threes against the 1-3-1 that kind of idled us a little bit that was big, and he got another huge one down.”
Between Poteat’s moment and Maddox and Pedulla combining for Tech’s last five baskets, things fell the right way for Virginia Tech down the stretch. But the Hokies played an awfully dangerous game, especially considering they were just 10-of-25 in the second half and lost the rebounding battle by 14.
If they afford that luxury to Penn State (4-0), Friday’s opponent in the Charleston Classic (12 p.m., ESPN2/U), the Nittany Lions will likely make them pay.
“We just can’t keep having the second half issues,” Basile said. “We could’ve put them away at the end of the first half. I think it was 18 with two minutes left. We’ve just got to put teams away so we don’t have to play in close games like that.”
Box Score: Link
Charleston Classic Info/Bracket: Link