Virginia Tech Snaps Losing Streak, Beats Duke On Big Monday

MJ Collins and Virginia Tech snapped their losing streak against Duke on Monday night. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech wasn’t perfect, but it did most of the little things right on Monday night vs. Duke.

Grant Basile was in the right position to help on defense against Kyle Filipowski, stripping the ball away. MJ Collins grabbed a loose rebound in the corner, which led to a Basile layup. Hunter Cattoor read Duke’s inbound play and made the game-sealing steal.

As Blue Devils’ head coach Jon Scheyer put it afterwards, the Hokies (12-8, 2-7 ACC) were just one play better than Duke (14-6, 5-4) in their 78-75 win on ‘Big Monday’ on ESPN.

“They earned it,” Tech head coach Mike Young said of his team’s performance. “We played well enough to win.”

Victory was sweet for Mike Young and the Hokies. (Ivan Morozov)

Entering the primetime clash, Virginia Tech lost seven consecutive games by a combined 35 points. Take out the two 10-point defeats at Syracuse and No. 7 Virginia and it was five games decided by 15 points.

Young & Co. struggled without Cattoor, who missed five games with a fractured elbow. At times, they looked like the team that shot above 50% against North Carolina and beat Penn State on a neutral floor earlier in the year. But even in recent defeats in Charlottesville and Clemson, they failed to put a complete 40 minutes of basketball together.

Enter Duke, winners of three of its last four, but losers of four of its last five in Cassell Coliseum. The confines of Blacksburg have not been kind to the Blue Devils, and a similar story played out in the 2022-23 version.

Filipowski, the 7-0 freshman, posted a career-high 29 points and his fourth straight double-double with 10 rebounds. But he was the only consistent option for Duke, due much in part to Tech’s stout defense.

Kyle Filipowski was awfully good for Duke, but Virginia Tech and Grant Basile limited his teammates. (Ivan Morozov)

While the Blue Devils shot 50% in the first half, Tech limited them to 46% in the second. Tyrese Proctor added 10 points and hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left that tied the score at 75. But the only other double-figure scorer was Dariq Whitehead, who left the game early in the second half with a lower leg injury.

Most importantly, Duke entered the game ranked fourth in the country in offensive rebound percentage (38.8%). Virginia Tech allowed just nine offensive boards out of 30 total (30%), the Blue Devils’ third-lowest mark on the season.

At the same time, the Hokies exploded offensively. They were the first team to shoot above 50% against Duke through 20 games this season, finishing 28-of-49 (57.1%). Moreover, they made 10 of their 19 attempts (52.6%) from long range.

Basile was a matchup nightmare, using his body to fend off Blue Devils and slice through the defense. Filipowski, Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II all struggled to keep him at bay at different points in the game.

Offensively, Grant Basile was a matchup nightmare for Duke. (Ivan Morozov)

He finished with 24 points (10-of-15) and eight rebounds, arguably his best performance of the season since he had 23 and 10 vs. Dayton in December. He came up with two crucial blocks, too.

“Basile was terrific,” Young said. “He’s having a good year for us, but he belonged on that floor and asserted himself. Was aggressive and took them into the post a couple of times and ‘bang, bang’ and got to the charge circle and got up over his left shoulder and got a couple down. He was very good. Very proud of Grant.”

It wasn’t all Basile, though. For just the third time this season, Virginia Tech shot 50% or better from behind the arc. In the first half, it knocked down seven of its 10, four via Cattoor. Collins, Cattoor and Sean Pedulla each hit one in big moments in the latter stages of the game, too.

With the three-ball available as a weapon, Tech went to work. In terms of points per possession, the team posted its third-best mark of the year (1.22) and its best in ACC play, topping the win over North Carolina (1.19).

Hunter Cattoor and Virginia Tech had one of their best offensive performances of the year on Monday. (Ivan Morozov)

The ball moved. Basile made Duke defend him, which opened up other opportunities. And the Hokies were so good on both ends of the floor with the quintet of Pedulla, Collins, Cattoor, Basile and Lynn Kidd that Young kept Justyn Mutts on the bench for 7:16 in the second half.

“I wasn’t sure we could do it,” Young joked. “Justyn means that much to us. But hats off to Lynn and Grant. I thought we had just enough pressure on the ball when they put it in the post, we trapped them a couple of times in the second half.

“A real feather in those two kids’ hats. They got us home, by and large.”

Pedulla (16 points), Cattoor (15) and Mutts (nine points, six assists) did their part. But at the end of the day, it was Collins who sealed the victory.

Lynn Kidd and Grant Basile were so good that Mike Young kept Justyn Mutts on the bench for over seven minutes in the second half. (Ivan Morozov)

With less than 30 seconds to go and the clock winding down, Cattoor drove towards the basket. Drawing defenders towards him, he passed to Collins in the corner in front of the Tech bench. The freshman didn’t hesitate, blowing by Mark Mitchell and hitting a 12-footer over him and the 6-10 Young to give the Hokies the lead.

“He’s having a very good freshman year,” Young said. “His play over the last three, he’s graduated to an elevated class status, he’s not playing like a freshman. … And I’ve got him guarding Mark Mitchell (6-8). Good luck to you at six-foot-four, and he fought his tail off and did a great job for our team.”

And after Proctor missed a three on Duke’s following possession, it was Collins who grabbed the board. He hit one of the two free throws that followed, and Cattoor’s steal on the final possession sent Cassell Coliseum into a frenzy.

Collins never panicked, though. He’s been in those moments before, like in high school when he played against Sunrise Christian Academy, then the No. 1 team in the country. He just reminded himself to stay calm, which he did.

MJ Collins sealed the game for the Hokies with his final three points. (Ivan Morozov)

“I think that’s who he is,” Cattoor said of Collins. “He’s all about the right things. He wants to do the right thing. Whatever the coaches say, he’s going to do it. And I think the coaches love that about him, they trust him.

“A lot of guys get caught up in high school thinking they’ve got to go out there and score 30, this and that, and then they get to college and have to do the same thing. I’m sure MJ dropped 30 in high school, but he comes here and he’s only taking two or three shots a game. He’s out there guarding, and if you guard, the coaches are going to trust you.”

The Clover, S.C. native showed his value in Tech’s first 19 games, and when the spotlight came his way in the 20th, he didn’t fret. It showed in his play – not just in his six points, but in his scrappiness and his five rebounds, the second-most on the team.

As a result, he saw most of the minutes that would’ve gone to Darius Maddox (six minutes). And he made the most of it.

Virginia Tech is back to its winning ways. (Ivan Morozov)

His growth, along with that of Kidd (four points, four rebounds), was a big reason why Virginia Tech was able to get over the hump against Duke. Young said the Hokies were “kind of throwing things against the wall” in hopes that they found something that worked, and those two players coming into their own played large roles.

So when Cattoor stole the inbound pass and tossed it up in the air as time expired, it felt like a weight was lifted off the players’ shoulders.

“Just all the relief of the past couple of weeks and to finally play hard for a full 40 minutes and win that game, it felt really good,” Cattoor said.

Tech’s resume isn’t where it wants it to be, but 5-7 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games isn’t terrible for mid-January. As Basile put it, the Hokies just need to find a way to string some good performances together.

Box Score: Link 

14 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Nothing wrong w/this team that a little home cookin’ and Cattoor’s return to the lineup couldn’t fix. Consider that 5 of the games during the losing streak were road games and Cattoor missed 5+ of the 7 w/his injury. There are very few easy games in the ACC and road wins are hard to come by.
    Both the 10-pt. losses (SU and UVA) were road games. Every one of the other 5 was winnable. The road loss (by 1) @ Clemson was Cattoor’s first game in over a month. Thje loss @ Syracuse was a statistical aberration. We played tough against a very good UVA outfit in which Clark (a 5th year players) outplayed Pedula (at 2nd year player). (We will see both of those teams in The Cassell.) The differences in the other 5 losses were very small. (BC has had out number for a while.) This is a good team. Over half (11 games) the ACC schedule is ahead of us w/6 of those @ home. Three of the 5 road games are @ ND, GT and Louisville which have combined for 2 wins. (We finally broke the Louisville losing streak last year.) We could easily win 9 of those 11 games which would give us 21 for the season, pre-tournament and a 10-10 split in ACC play. Also, we have quality OOC wins. The best thing about the season is that we caught UNC wo Bacot and don’t see them again in regular season play. We also get FSU @ home. Trust in Mike Young!

    1. Fingers crossed. And then we probably need to win two games in ACC Tournament to get a NCAA berth.

  2. The most glaring fact I see in the box score is the 1-5 free throws by Justin. You can do better JM and we need you to do better.

    1. the missed FT by Basile, the Duke 3 pt. shot and a FT that followed and Mutts’ 2 subsequent FT’s was almost a turning point in the game, reducing a 7 pt. lead to 3. Mutts is who he is but I’d like to see more intensity. .

  3. What a relief! The secret to winning – shooting 60% from 2 pt. and 53% from 3 pt. And we still only won by 3 pts. Pedulla only took 8 shots. And Basile was more aggressive and had a monster game. I am sure part of it was the match up but it’s a good formula. Maddux hardly played and Collins continues to improve. With 11 games to go and feeling like we can win again, I guess we will start speculating at how many we need to win to make the NIT and NCAA. Before tonight, we were still 6 in the ACC in the NET and we will move up some.

    1. Unbelievably, according to Scott Van Pelt, Tech was favored. Duke strategy obviously was to double team & take Muttsy out of the offense. Others stepped up. Basile can be a force, when so motived. I think he got torqued at Duke’s brand of physicality @ both ends of the floor. Accidental shot Filipowski took from Collins was legitimately wicked; but, for the rest of the game, what a cry baby prima dona!

      1. Yeah, we have covered the line by exactly 0.5 points that last two games. For a guy his size Filipowski has an amazing set of skills. Hopefully, he will only play one year.

      2. Want to ensure we shoot above 50%? Double team Mutts (who isn’t a terrific scorer) and allow him to take on his best offensive trait, the ability to distribute the ball. I, personally, would force Mutts to beat me scoring that passing. Everyone did their job tonight, and that makes us a tough team.

      3. What’s so unbelievable about VT being favored? Lost a bunch of close games and haven’t been blown out. Duke’s lost 3 games handily.

        Cattoor hitting 3’s early (and Duke focusing on Mutts early as well) really opened things up for Basile inside. Cattoor may not put up an impressive stat line every night – and he only had 3 pts in the 2nd half – but he makes life easier for everybody else on both ends. Basile’s stat line may have been 2x because of Cattoor.

        It also didn’t hurt that Basile didn’t get into foul trouble early. It seems like teams have been going hard at him early over the last month to get him on his heels with 2 fouls. I was just wondering yesterday if Young wouldn’t consider bringing him in off the bench just to avoid that. But thankfully Duke didn’t really attack him early (rookie coach perhaps?)

          1. But the worst call this season on the block on Pedula. Clearly was a charge. No harm, though- Duke missed the front end of the one and one. Basketball gods also knew it was a bad call.

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