Six minutes into the first half, Virginia Tech trailed Dayton by six. But a quick run behind Grant Basile pushed the Hokies back into the lead, one they never relinquished in their 77-49 thumping of the Flyers on Wednesday night.
“They’re well-schooled, Coach [Anthony] Grant is terrific,” Tech head coach Mike Young said of Dayton. “You beat the Flyers, a good basketball team, and limit them to 30% from the field, 20% from three, [that’ll] win a lot of ballgames for you.”
Tech (9-1, 1-0 ACC) was punched in the mouth early by Dayton (5-5). The Flyers jumped out to an early 12-6 lead, tying the largest deficit the Hokies had faced at home to that point. But Basile rallied the troops, and a quick 9-0 run was exactly what the team needed.
In a stretch where Tech made five straight baskets, Basile hit three of them. And in the blink of an eye, the pendulum of momentum swung back to the home side.
The key, however, was defense. Over the last 12 minutes of the first half, Dayton made just three of its 21 field goals. Two were back-to-back around the eight-minute mark while the other came with 39 seconds remaining. The Flyers suffered two separate stretches of 0-of-7 and 0-of-10.
Anthony Grant’s squad finished with 0.78 points per possession, the lowest mark for a Tech opponent this season. And while Dayton won the battle on the boards (42-35) and started five guys above 6-6, the Hokies shut them down.
“I think we have a ton of really good offensive players,” Basile said afterwards of his team’s defense, “but I think that’s the biggest thing. That’s going to control our ceiling, so we can continue to get better defensively. We’ve put on a couple of good defensive performances in a row.
“We kind of put a more complete game together tonight. We had kind of let teams back in the game in the second half, but we didn’t do that today.”
Dayton was just 9-of-37 (24.3%) in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech made 18 of its 32 shots (56.3%). Over the final 14 minutes in the half, the Hokies outscored the Flyers 36-9. The majority (28 points) came from Basile and Sean Pedulla, who were 11-of-14 (5-of-7 from distance).
Dayton was no match for Tech’s two leading scorers and it showed. For the game, the duo finished with 42 total points, seven shy of the Flyers’ mark as a team. Basile posted his second double-double in Blacksburg with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and he also added four blocks. Pedulla fouled out late, but he scored 19 points and had two assists to one turnover.
“He just had a great look about him,” Young said of Basile. “Just moving well, picking his spot, shot selection was good. … Had a good shootaround today at three o’clock in preparation. He was ready to go, he was amped up.”
One of the most impressive parts about Tech’s ability to pull away was the fact that it happened without do-it-all veteran Justyn Mutts. He was on the bench for a large portion of the run with two fouls. Hunter Cattoor didn’t score during that span either.
It was essentially the Basile and Pedulla show with a bit of Darius Maddox (12 points) and Lynn Kidd (six) sprinkled in. And Tech didn’t seem bothered by Dayton’s length on either end. While it didn’t score 40-plus points in the paint for the sixth consecutive game, it did notch 36. And DaRon Holmes II, a First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection, was the only Flyer in double figures with 13 points.
Seven of Dayton’s 12 turnovers came in the second half. Similarly, three of the seven assists came over that same stretch. The fouls didn’t go Tech’s way either – it had 18 to the Flyers’ 11, and Pedulla, Kidd and Mutts each sat at different times as a result.
But the Hokies continued to grind, and they got contributions from all over the place. MJ Collins, who has emerged as of late, had two points and three assists; Mylyjael Poteat, who was on the court for 12 minutes, had four points and a rebound.
“That was a really sound effort from our bunch,” Young said. “A great scouting report from our coaches. Our kids took it on the floor and executed it, not perfectly, but pretty darn good.”
In the end, Young’s 100th game at the helm of the Hokies – he’s 63-37 (.630) – was good basketball. Virginia Tech was connected defensively and the ball didn’t get stuck on the other end of the court. What’s more, when the Hokies needed to, they made big plays.
None were bigger than Cattoor’s one-handed tomahawk jam in the second half, though. With 10:47 to play and his team leading by 25, the senior sliced through the lane and posterized Kaleb Washington.
NO RIM IS SAFE.
— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) December 8, 2022
“I was just hoping the two of us would still be here four years in a row,” Young joked about Cattoor, explaining that he didn’t expect a dunk like that. “He’s a dude. He’s good, really good. … What a blessing it’s been for this old boy to have the opportunity to coach him.”
Poteat, Collins and Kidd each added dunks down the stretch. Tech’s walk-ons also entered the game with 90 seconds to play, and Cave Spring product Owen Dawyot swished a jumper from the baseline for the icing on the cake.
Though it didn’t start off that way, the victory came exactly the way a Virginia Tech fan would expect: good offense, hard-nosed defense and entertaining basketball. Ahead of a big clash in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Sunday, Wednesday’s win was a confidence booster for the Hokies.
“I think that’s a sign of a good team,” Pedulla said of the win. “We kind of took the punch early and we said, ‘Okay, let’s take a step back, let’s throw a punch ourselves.’ I think it speaks to how well we’re coming together and the chemistry we’re growing with each other.”
Box Score: Link