Virginia Tech Rolls Past Syracuse With Ball Movement, 3-Point Shooting

Justyn Mutts and Virginia Tech had 26 assists, the most in an ACC game under Mike Young, vs. Syracuse. (Ivan Morozov)

Behind a slew of 3-point shooting and immaculate ball movement, Virginia Tech rolled past Syracuse on Saturday night in Cassell Coliseum, 85-70.

In the previous meeting between the two squads on Jan. 11, the Hokies struggled from behind the arc, making just three of their 19 attempts. It was the polar opposite in front of a packed house in Blacksburg – 13-of-32 found the bottom of the net. In the first half, they were 11-of-20, which helped propel the team to its second straight win.

“The zone will keep you up at night,” Tech head coach Mike Young said after the win. “A couple weeks ago, I was in Syracuse, N.Y. and saw my boys make two in the first half and … three total. … I thought we put the ball in good places [tonight].”

Grant Basile led all scorers with 25 points (11-of-23) while Hunter Cattoor added 20 (6-of-10). Tech (13-8, 3-7 ACC) scored from all over while the ball moved at a high rate. The team finished with a season-high 26 assists, the most in an ACC game in the Mike Young era, on 32 made baskets.

John Camden, Grant Basile and the Hokies were excellent offensively against the Orange. (Ivan Morozov)

Two players – Cattoor and Justyn Mutts – finished with eight assists for just the second time in the program’s ACC history. The other instance: Jan. 26, 2019 vs. Syracuse when Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker did so. Mutts contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds, too, two assists shy of a triple-double – a mark he met in the 2021-22 home meeting with the Orange.

“It’s a cheat code,” Cattoor said of Mutts. “You get the ball into Justyn Mutts and good things are going to happen. We were put in good spots today, we trusted Justyn to make those plays and he did.”

Attacking the 2-3 zone is different from regular defenses – it requires patience, unselfishness and good decision-making. At Syracuse (13-9, 6-5 ACC) 17 days prior, a Cattoor-less Hokies squad struggled to piece it all together.

In front of a sold-out crowd in primetime on Saturday, Virginia Tech exploited the zone’s weaknesses and excelled. Point guard Sean Pedulla (six points, three rebounds, two assists) spent much of the game in foul trouble and only played 17 minutes. In fact, he sat for the final 9:32 of the first half with two personals.

Even with Sean Pedulla off the floor for a good chunk of the game, Hunter Cattoor and Virginia Tech found success. (Ivan Morozov)

But that didn’t bother the Hokies. Missing Darius Maddox, who was unavailable due to a family emergency, freshmen MJ Collins and John Camden stepped up to the plate. While they didn’t homer, they got on base and pushed a few runs across. The two combined for 61 minutes, 19 points (7-of-14), four 3-pointers, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“John Camden, he’s got some moxie to him,” Young said. “I think if I missed my first three shots, I may have crawled in a hole and gone away, but he kept plugging. Got one down in the short corner. Played a whale of a ballgame.”

Tech was excellent on the offensive end, but it took some time to get going. It attacked inside early – five of its first 11 field goals were 2-point baskets – and soon heated up.

The Hokies started 2-of-10 from distance but made nine of their next 10, including six in a row. Cattoor nailed five, Collins drained three, Basile hit two and Camden knocked down one. And that was the spark that lit the fire.

Grant Basile led the way for the Hokies with 25 points, including two treys. (Ivan Morozov)

Tech made 20 of its 32 shots in the first half (62.5%) and averaged 1.53 points per possession. Amazingly, that number increased in the nine-plus minutes Pedulla was off the floor – Tech scored 28 points on 15 possessions (1.87).

“When you have a guy like Hunter that can shoot the way he can,” Basile said, “he pulls somebody with him and that kind of leaves them a little susceptible on the backside. … When you have shooters like that, it makes it hard on the zone.”

The Hokies were extremely effective on defense, too. Joe Girard, who had 24 points (10-of-20) in the first meeting, was held to just seven points (2-of-8). Much of that credit was to Cattoor, who seemed to be glued to Girard. But the team was impressive as a whole.

Though the Orange shot 47% from the floor (23-of-49), only once did it make a field goal on three straight possessions. Syracuse hit six consecutive shots during a 17-7 run over 4:43 in the second half, which cut Tech’s lead to 12, 65-53. But the Hokies responded with an 8-0 run.

Judah Mintz and Syracuse made a late run, but Virginia Tech’s defense was stout. (Ivan Morozov)

Judah Mintz was the lone player that found success for Syracuse, finishing with 21 points (5-of-12) and eight assists. Jesse Edwards (nine points) dealt with foul trouble and Girard was locked down. Justin Taylor and Maliq Brown scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, but it wasn’t at a consistent enough rate to hang with the Hokies.

“I think we just made them uncomfortable,” Cattoor said. “Personally, I was just trying to get to his spot when [Girard] got there. He can shoot it in a click, so I was trying to get there as soon as possible and not give him a good look. … Credit to our defense, we had a good scout plan by the coaches and went out and played hard.”

The Orange pressed in the second half and forced 11 turnovers, never allowing Virginia Tech to pull away entirely. But the offense flowed through the full cast of characters, from Cattoor and Mutts to Basile, Collins and Camden.

As a result, the Hokies picked up their second win in a row against ACC competition. Two Quadrant 1 opportunities at Miami (Tuesday) and home against Virginia (Saturday) are up next.

Two wins in a row is pretty sweet for Mike Young & Co. (Ivan Morozov)

“We can’t get comfortable,” Basile said. “We have two really good opportunities to go get some good ones.”

Box Score: Link 

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16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Where is 1hokie1 now? His post game comments from the previous SU game: “The reason this team sucks is Maddox got overrated when he hit the big shot against Clemson. He is not what we expected. Miss Alumas presence and rebounding. Miss the spunk of Storm.” “This team sucks?” Really? Nothing wrong w/this team that the broadcast team didn’t notice: Cattoor is the best Hokie 3-pt. shooter, best defender and most versatile player.” Cattoor has put up 41 pts. since he came back vs. Clemson. Where was Girardi last night? Being covered by Cattoor: Is anyone else tired of the negavitiy on these boards about our team?

  2. Don’t understand why Boeheim didn’t get out of that zone when we were picking it apart.

  3. Two games now where Basile has taken more shots and Pedulla has taken fewer. Good recipe. Basile leading scorer in conference games for us and averaging 10 less minutes a game than Mutts and Pedulla. I can see times when it appears Basile has made poor defensive plays but he is a key to our offense.

  4. This would have been a 30 point blowout if the refs hadn’t kept Syracuse in the game. Happy for the win!

    1. Good one. Blaming refs is such a pathetic take. Get over it. Nothing screams I am a non-athlete, like blaming the refs. It’s just sad.

  5. Tech could have had over a 100 if they would have hit the open man (usually Basille) under the basket!
    Good way to break the press.
    Time after time he was wide open.
    Fortunately they were hitting them from outside.

  6. Very solid game. Coaches and players need to more quickly figure out how to aggressively break the press. By the time we did, they’d turned in over almost a dozen times. We will see more of that until we fix it.

    Basille plays better when he’s a little agitated. He had some edge last night; just as he did against Duke.

    Hope Maddox family situation turns out ok.

    Love the emotion of CMY when talking about the kid who painted his shoes. Touching.

    This team has no quit in them.

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