On Saturday evening in a sold-out Cassell Coliseum, NC State trumped Virginia Tech, 73-69, extending the Hokies’ losing streak to four games.
Despite an energized second half, Tech (11-5, 1-4 ACC) couldn’t complete the double-digit comeback against the Wolfpack (12-4, 3-3 ACC).
Sean Pedulla (19 points), Darius Maddox (16) and Lynn Kidd (14) led the way for VT. Four Wolfpack scored in double figures: Terquavion Smith (22 points), Jarkel Joiner (21), Casey Morsell (15) and D.J. Burns Jr. (10).
“They’re good,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the loss. “We just couldn’t catch a break when we needed it most, down three, I think it was down to two at one point. One big stop, one big rebound. We had a couple rebounds go to the Wolfpack. I need something good to happen and it didn’t when we came down the stretch tonight.”
NC State roared out to a 13-2 lead in the first 3:05 of the game and never looked back. It wasn’t a tremendous shooting performance at 41.4%, but it got the job done. After shooting 45.5% in the first half, the Wolfpack found it harder to score after intermission.
Tech ramped up its defense and was more aggressive. In turn, it held the Wolfpack to 9-of-25 (36%) from the field.
“We had two or three deflections in the first half which is unconscionable,” Young said. “We had that many in the first four minutes of the second half. Just much more aggressive. We fought, we were the aggressive team in the second half. Haven’t said that many times in my time here that they were just that much more aggressive than we were in that first half.”
Smith scored 13 in the first half for Kevin Keatts & Co., who took a 36-22 lead into recess. They were also dominant on the glass all game, outrebounding Tech 38-29. In the first half, that margin was 20-12.
After struggling to generate consistent offense in the first half, the Hokies found more of a groove in the second, which went hand-in-hand with their improved defense. Justyn Mutts, Maddox and Pedulla came alive, helping Tech shoot 51.7% from the floor. They scored 37 of their 44 combined points in the second half.
Two 7-0 runs cut into the NC State lead, which was trimmed to four after a Mutts put-back dunk with 9:12 remaining. But the Wolfpack kept Tech at arm’s length until the final few minutes.
In fact, Smith scored the opening basket of the game, a trey, and NC State led three-plus points for the following 39:38. The Hokies had their chances with a minute to go, however. Despite trailing by 10, they ripped off an 8-0 run, sparked by two 3-pointers from Maddox.
Twice more NC State stretched the difference to a two-possession game; both times Tech answered, courtesy of a Pedulla layup and a Maddox triple. Two free throws from Pedulla made it a two-point game with 7.7 remaining, the closest since the opening tip, but it wasn’t enough.
“We made plays down the stretch when we needed to,” Keatts said. “I’m proud of our guys. It’s hard to finish games, it’s hard to win games in this league and especially on the road.”
In the third game without Hunter Cattoor, who injured his left arm on Dec. 21 at Boston College, Tech was just 5-of-18 (27.8%) from downtown. Pedulla and Darius Maddox hit the lone 3-pointers on the night, and three of Maddox’s four were in the final 60 seconds. VT hasn’t shot above 30% from deep in three of its last four outings.
Virginia Tech wasn’t able to take advantage of NC State’s foul trouble either. D.J. Burns, Greg Gantt and Morsell had four while Jarkel Joiner had three. Moreover, the Wolfpack committed its 10th foul of the second half with 7:20 left. The Hokies shot just four free throws after that.
Like the previous four losses, Virginia Tech had multiple chances late. The Hokies cut the margin to three (or below) on four separate occasions in the final 60 seconds but couldn’t edge closer. Similarly, the five defeats were by a combined 16 points.
After the loss, Young was hopeful Cattoor would return on Wednesday at Syracuse. Rice has yet to be cleared by the medical staff.
Full quotes from Mike Young on the injury details to Hunter Cattoor and Rodney Rice:
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) January 8, 2023
Three road games await the Hokies over the next 11 days. A trip to the JMA Wireless Dome (formerly the Carrier Dome), a place the program is 1-7 all-time, is up first. After a weekend off, Tech travels to Charlottesville for a Wednesday night class with Virginia on Jan. 18. The stretch concludes at league-leader Clemson (5-0 ACC) on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Box Score: Link