In front of a solid crowd in Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech bounded back from its College of Charleston loss with a 69-64 win over Charleston Southern on Black Friday. It’s the fourth consecutive game decided by five points or fewer for the Hokies.
“Credit Charleston Southern,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the win. “Those guys played a good ballgame. They’ve got a couple of kids that can really score in 12 [Claudell Harris Jr.] and 13 [Tahlik Chavez], 14 [Taje’ Kelly] is a moose in the post.
“I don’t think it was as much of my team played poorly – we weren’t great, we weren’t real good on either end. Those guys came in here to fight, and fight they did, and they’re well-coached. Having said all that, we’re supposed to win, and we did that.”
It wasn’t a pretty basketball game for the Hokies (6-1), who couldn’t pull away from the Buccaneers (2-3) over the course of 40 minutes. There were 13 ties and 10 lead changes, and Tech didn’t have its best offensive outing.
The shooting struggles from deep (9-of-46 from 3-point range in previous two games) kept up as the Hokies were just 6-of-21 from behind the arc. Grant Basile (six points) and Hunter Cattoor (eight points) each made two treys, but like the Charleston Classic, Tech scored 40 points in the paint.
Justyn Mutts led the way with 17 points, and he added nine rebounds and five assists, too. Sean Pedulla contributed 15 points while Darius Maddox added 12. The player of the night, though, was Lynn Kidd.
The junior from Gainesville, Fla. barely contributed last year in Blacksburg. He played in just 10 games for 25 total minutes. As a result, he changed his mindset in the offseason. The gym became his home and he started working out all the time. In turn, that transformed his game. And it was obvious on a night like Friday what Kidd’s impact can be.
Against the Buccaneers, Basile didn’t reach double digits for the first time in 2022-23. Tech’s second-leading scorer (14.9 ppg), Basile struggled, shooting 2-of-6. Instead, it was Kidd who Virginia Tech turned to in the tight game, and he was 5-of-9 while grabbing eight rebounds in just 15 minutes of play.
“He played a really good ball game,” Young said of Kidd. “Kept some things alive on the glass on a night when Grant didn’t have his best stuff. Five offensive rebounds, eight overall, 11 points.
“He worked [in the offseason]. I believe in basketball gods. They’re in every basketball facility. And they smile upon those that work on their game and are serious. And he had an unbelievable summer in the weight room, on the floor. … I’m proud, he’s earned everything he is getting. Not a thing has been given to him.”
Outside of the performances of Kidd and Mutts, though, things didn’t come easy for the Hokies. They only shot 42.6% from the floor (26-of-61), were outrebounded by one (38 to 37) and couldn’t seem to finish off the Buccaneers.
Led by Barclay Radebaugh, Charleston Southern had a tough 2021-22, finishing 6-25. But the group gave Virginia Tech tough time on Friday, shooting 43.3% overall, knocking down eight 3-pointers, crashing the offensive glass and making some tough shots.
Harris Jr. (17 points), Kelly (16), Chavez (12) and Tyeree Bryan (11) each scored in double figures for the Buccaneers. They had a few explosive spurts in the second half, including a 5-0 run and a 9-2 run, and they took Tech to the wire. It helped that the Hokies missed some open looks on their offensive end.
“We were a step slow to the ball,” Young said of his team’s defense. “The ball was too comfortable. Their rhythm shots were too comfortable. We couldn’t get them under duress.”
Despite that, Virginia Tech held on for its sixth win of the year. It wasn’t pretty – the defense looked out of sync at times and shots didn’t fall – but Young likes where his group is ahead of a daunting stretch.
Starting on Monday, the Hokies play Minnesota, North Carolina, Dayton (all at home) and Oklahoma State (Brooklyn) in a 13-day span. The Gophers and Cowboys are 4-2, the Tar Heels were No. 1 in the country before falling to Iowa State and Tech lost to Dayton last year on the road. It’s going to be an extremely demanding run of games.
“I think we are [close to where we want to be],” Young said. “We’re not that far off. We didn’t have a real good pop to us offensively tonight. The offensive part is really the least of my concerns. I’ve got a good offensive group. Still experiencing some growing pains here defensively, but we’re going to get there. They’ve got the ‘want to.'”
Box Score: Link