At No. 10 Virginia, The Losing Streak Continues For Virginia Tech Basketball

Darius Maddox and Virginia Tech came up short once again on Wednesday night at Virginia. (Jon Fleming)

In a contest that was neck-and-neck for almost 40 minutes, Virginia Tech couldn’t pull off the upset at No. 10 Virginia, losing its sixth consecutive game, 78-68.

Senior guard Hunter Cattoor was the glue that held Tech together in his first game back from an elbow injury, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. But despite the Hokies’ best efforts, UVa was too much to handle in John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday night.

“I thought my team fought, and they’re very good,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the loss. “Proud of our numbers. 19 assists in here, only eight turnovers. Those are Virginia Tech numbers. … I tell you what, if there are 10 teams out there better than them nationally, I’d like to see them.”

With 9:20 remaining, Virginia (14-3, 6-2 ACC) led Virginia Tech (11-7, 1-6 ACC) by four, 59-55. To that point, the two teams matched each other stride for stride. But after Kihei Clark (20 points, five assists) drained a 3-pointer in front of UVa’s bench out of the eight-minute media timeout, the Hokies turned it over at midcourt. Jayden Gardner scored a layup in transition, got fouled and made his free throw.

Kihei Clark and Virginia made the plays down the stretch when needed. (Jon Fleming)

From there, UVa was in control. Tech was 5-of-14 from the field the rest of the way and was outscored 19-12.

The Hokies pulled within eight points on three separate occasions; the Cavaliers responded with each time – a trey from Isaac McKneely, one from Clark and a jumper from Ben Vander Plas.

“You rarely hear me say this, but we had to score,” UVa head coach Tony Bennett said. “We had a hard time stopping them. And we ran good offense and the guards made timely, big baskets, but they put a lot of pressure on you. I just thought there were some key plays.”

Offense ruled the night for both teams. As good as Virginia Tech and Virginia are defensively, both teams shot well. VT made 49% of its attempts to UVa’s 51%. The Hokies also shot above 40% from behind the arc – 12-of-27 (44.4%) – for the first time since Grambling State in mid-December, before the losing streak began.

Hokies shot over 40% for the first time since Grambling State. (Jon Fleming)

In comparison to their most recent displays, they looked like a different team offensively. The ball moved better – Tech had 19 assists to eight turnovers – and fewer shots were forced. All five starters finished in double figures, led by Darius Maddox’s 13. Justyn Mutts added 10 points, seven dimes and six boards, Grant Basile had 12 points and Sean Pedulla scored 10.

Having Cattoor back was a big boost. Young referred to him as “the tide,” stating that he “raises all of our ships,” and it was evident in JPJ. Virginia had to gravitate to him more, opening up opportunities for others.

“Obviously, Hunter’s a great shooter,” Maddox said. “The defense really has to key into him shooting, so they have to kind of not help as much, along with the ball movement. … I feel like offensively, we played well.”

Freshman guard MJ Collins also gave Tech a spark off the bench. In his 19 minutes, he grabbed four rebounds and made three of his five shots, including two-of-three from deep, good for eight points.

MJ Collins gave the Hokies some solid minutes at UVa. (Jon Fleming)

Tech announced that fellow freshman Rodney Rice broke his finger during practice on Jan. 14 after returning from an ankle injury. As a result, Collins saw more action. He played well, tying his career-high in points from December’s win vs. North Carolina.

“[He] did [play well],” Young said of Collins. “Now MJ Collins, do something with it. Play good ball on Saturday. He’s doing it night-in, night-out defensively, but to get those two shots down – I thought he made a big basket … around the lane. Great look about him, he played a good ballgame.”

At the end of the day, though, UVa was just too good to hold off. Tony Bennett’s club went through some rough patches due to good defense from Tech. The Cavaliers were held scoreless for 5:07 in the first half, during which the Hokies ripped off an 11-0 run. Yet, Virginia countered with a 21-10 span to take a 40-31 lead into intermission.

Like Tech, all five of UVa’s starters posted double-digit points. Franklin had 15 (and five rebounds), Jayden Gardner had 12, Reece Beekman added 11 (and seven assists) and Vander Plas scored 10 (with seven boards).

How can Virginia Tech and Justyn Mutts right the ship? (Jon Fleming)

Similar to last year’s 2-7 start to conference play, the Hokies sit at 1-6 halfway through January. Young’s message to his team: stay the course.

The offense was an improvement from the past few games. Adjustments are to be expected on the defensive end, but UVa’s top-20 offense in the country was on display on Wednesday night. Overall, though, the connectivity and ball movement were better; Tech looked like its old self in many areas.

Young hopes the Hokies play in a similar manner on Saturday in their second meeting of the year with Clemson (15-4, 7-1 ACC). In the first clash on Jan. 4, Tech was 27.9% on two-point shots, the lowest mark since 2012.

In the three games since, the team hasn’t shot below 53%. And the three-point game came alive in Charlottesville despite the loss.

Virginia Tech has lost in its last four trips to JPJ. However, the Hokies have won the last two in Cassell Coliseum. (Jon Fleming)

Though the defeat stings – UVa improved to 5-1 in the Commonwealth Clash with the victory –the performance was scattered with positives, something the Hokies couldn’t say on Jan. 11 at Syracuse.

“That effort, that level of basketball,” Young said of what it’ll take to snap the losing streak. “We’re going to be fine. We’re going to figure it out.”

Box Score: Link

15 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. UVA has a great team. They are relentless. Relentless is an attribute the Hokies need to learn quickly, mainly because every game they play they have a giant target on their back that says “We won the ACC tournament last year” and teams bring more than their best every time. Pedulla will be fine. Clark is quick and nasty, but Pedulla looked out of sorts…not that Clark didn’t have something to do with that, Pedulla was just “off”. Perhaps rattled. VT will get there. Go Hokies!

  2. Hokies all, we lost to a BETTER TEAM. IMO, only Mutts & Cattoor would be in the Cav’s first eight guys, Mattox, Kidd and Collins played to their abilities last night. Clark “schooled” Sean Pedulla. Can’t blame the refs, you get fouled when you attack the basket, UVa did that, we did not.

    Hope we can get a win soon. GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!

    1. Can’t blame the refs,>>>>
      Take a look at the pix above. Where are the UVA players’ hands. They have great defensive skills and push the limits of ACC officiating.

  3. Glad to see Maddox get back on track, though I’ve been saying for a while his release has changed. Bilas said last night he has a “hitch” in his release. Wasn’t said as a bad thing; just said it as a fact. I didn’t see that last year.

    Also easy to see how Cattoor helps everything and everyone. Glad to have him back.

    These were 2 very evenly matched teams. Just couldn’t close the deal.

  4. “We’re going to be fine. We’re going to figure it out.” Repeat, wash, rinse, dry, repeat.

    1. If you honestly think VT could do better with a different coach, I think you’re delusional. We’re very lucky to have CMY at the helm.

  5. We had winning stats last night and showed some “team” effort due to the return of Cattoor. However, the most telling stat was Free Throws – 2 for 2…Virginia had 12 for 13. There was a lot of contact in the game and we did not get the benefit of most calls. We let them have their way in the lane.

    1. Durning our losing streak, we’ve made less free throws than our opponents in all of those games. Against UVA and NC State, the FT deficit was the margin of loss. Also, no fast break points makes it tougher on the defense. If we are a little better in those areas, we can beat anybody in the ACC. Just hope we can turn it on NOW.

    2. 12 pts. on 13-FT attempts vs. 2 on 2 = 10 pts difference. Discrepancy, duly noted: That and Kihei Clark.

      1. Yep. I noticed in the box score that we had only two FT’s. How is it possible for a team which plays such great defense to commit so few fouls? We know UVA is superbly coached by Tony Bennett, and they execute his system well. Unfortunately, I had a commitment which prevented me from watching the game. Did they simply outplay us on D or we’re the refs looking the other way?

  6. I agree with CMY – i.e. UVa is a great team. Still think we can step up our “D” some but very grateful to have Hunter Cattoor back and see a much better offense than we have been playing lately. I’m hoping we play a much better game at Clemson this Saturday.

  7. Finally, a good shooting game. Rice finger injury. Poor guy. Must feel cursed. Collins hit some shots which is great. But no rest for Pedulla.

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