Stifled By ‘Ratty’ Defense, Virginia Tech Falls Short vs. No. 13 Miami

Justyn Mutts and Virginia Tech had a tough time breaking down Miami’s defense on Tuesday night. (Jon Fleming)

Had one told Mike Young before the game that Virginia Tech would hold No. 13 Miami to 42% from the floor, he would’ve taken it. But the Hurricanes were just better on Tuesday night in Blacksburg, handing Tech a 76-70 loss.

“Not quite good enough,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said, “and they [Miami] are playing great, great basketball. We did some really good things, but needless to say, not enough versus the Hurricanes.”

Miami (23-5, 14-4 ACC) entered the day with the best offense in the ACC and the sixth-best in the country. But after allowing Jim Larrañaga & Co. to shoot 58% in the first meeting on Jan. 31, the Hokies (16-12, 6-11 ACC) did a much better job on that end of the floor.

The pace of the game was comfortable. Miami only hit seven 3-pointers on 22 attempts (32%). And despite five players scoring in double figures for the Canes, it wasn’t like the first meeting where one player (Nijel Pack) caught fire and pushed the team to the finish line.

Grant Basile and the Hokies couldn’t find consistency on the offensive end vs. Miami. (Jon Fleming)

Sure, Virginia Tech could’ve cleaned some things up defensively. But it was on offense where the struggles occurred. Hunter Cattoor said for the Hokies to have a chance in the game, they’d have to keep it the score in the 60s and 70s, and they did.

But Miami limited Grant Basile (13 points) and Justyn Mutts (nine points, five assists). In the first half, Basile scored just two points. Meanwhile, Sean Pedulla (17 points, six rebounds) and Cattoor (15 points, 5-of-10 3FG, six rebounds, four assists, four steals) led the way, much like they did in Coral Gables.

Tech shot 47%, better than Miami’s 42%, and was 9-of-27 (33%) from distance. Yet, Miami’s defense was ‘ratty,’ as Cattoor described it. The Hurricanes frustrated Tech from the opening tip and never let Mike Young’s team get into a rhythm.

Larrañaga’s gameplan started with hounding Pedulla, Tech’s point guard, with Pack. All he asked was the sophomore guard make life a pain for Pedulla, and once he was gassed, Bensley Joseph would take over and continue the objective. “Exhaust yourself,” Larrañaga said to Pack.

Nijel Pack and Miami made life a mess for Sean Pedulla on Tuesday. (Jon Fleming)

The strategy worked. Pedulla, who played more than 36 minutes, dealt with a defender for just about 94-feet throughout the entire contest. Consequently, he was 6-of-15, 2-of-9 from three, and one of those came in the final seconds with the clock winding down. He had three turnovers, too.

“Getting into the offense was not even really the tough part,” Pedulla said. “It’s just exhausting, just moving and cutting and all of that stuff. They kind of make it hard to create offensively like I usually do.”

“I’m very, very proud of my team, the way we hung in there in the first half and the way we played in the second half,” Larrañaga said.

Miami was hostile everywhere else, too. And the group was smart with its rotations. The Hurricanes wanted to switch and trap all over the floor and force Tech to throw swing passes over the defense so they’d have time to recover.

Miami’s defense was “ratty,” according to Cattoor. Young said it wad “aggressive and chaotic.” (Jon Fleming)

It worked. The Hokies finished with 16 assists (on 28 made field goals), but so much of what they wanted to do was stifled by Miami’s defense. Though Cattoor got a few treys down, they didn’t get to the free throw line – they took just seven foul shots to Miami’s 19.

There was never a consistent scoring option. Cattoor, Pedulla and Basile were a combined 17-of-38 (44.7%). While that about matched the team percentage (46.7%), they only made back-to-back shots once each. In fact, Tech only scored on consecutive possessions twice in the second half. And it finished with 12 turnovers, three of which came in the final four minutes.

“They’re so aggressive and chaotic,” Young said. “I don’t say that in a derogatory sense at all; I say it with great admiration and respect. And they just come at you in waves, and you knock something down, a long rebound and here you come. … They really go after balls as you’re initiating offense, so they’re sniping at stuff.”

Just like he was in the Watsco Center, Norchad Omier was the game’s best player. The most efficient scorer in the ACC (59.4%), the Hokies limited him to just 6-of-15 (40%). But he still found a way to score 17 points, and he grabbed 14 rebounds as well. Six of those came on the offensive glass, an area the Canes found success with 14. Yet, amazingly, they only scored three second chance points.

Norchad Omier had a good game, but Tech’s defense held Miami to 42% shooting, an impressive number. (Jon Fleming)

But Miami had more opportunities thanks to numerous tip-outs from Omier and his ability to keep possessions alive. It was deflating at times for Virginia Tech, who defended for 25 seconds of the shot clock and forced a tough look just to see the ball tipped back out to a Miami player.

“A lot of the time, he’s in a good position,” Cattoor said of Omier. “He’s so good at it. I think he knows when Pack and [Isaiah] Wong are ready to shoot and he puts himself in a good position to be in a good position for offensive rebounds, stuff like that. And also, when he makes his moves, sometimes he’ll throw it up and know it’s coming off before anyone else does and gets his own rebound and puts it back up.

“He’s an athletic person, he’s a big body. It’s tough. We couldn’t handle him right tonight.”

Outside of Omier and Pack, Wong led the way with 13 points. Jordan Miller posted 11 points and nine rebounds, another player that Tech had a difficult time corralling on the glass, and Bensley Joseph added 10 off the bench.

Isaiah Wong, who Mike Young said has “been at Miami since the rocks cooled,” leads one of the top offenses in the country. (Jon Fleming)

But Virginia Tech kept Miami out of transition. The speed of the game was where Young wanted it. Unfortunately, the Hokies just struggled to put it in the basket at times.

Rodney Rice made his return for the Hokies and played in Cassell Coliseum for the first time in his career. After dealing with an ankle injury in the preseason that kept him out until January 11 at Syracuse, the true freshman broke his finger in a practice. Almost six weeks later, he returned to the floor and played 11 minutes.

Rice (0-of-3) was the only Tech player that didn’t score – Lynn Kidd (nine points, 4-of-6), MJ Collins (five points) and Mylyjael Poteat (two points) each chipped in a few – but it was good to finally see him back on the floor.

“I thought he was farther along defensively,” Young said of Rice. “He’s a really, really talented offensive player and that will come together rather quickly. … It’s good to have him, he’s really talented. … To see him healthy, finally, and participating was good and will be good for our team as we move along.”

It was good to see Rodney Rice back in action for Virginia Tech. (Jon Fleming)

Cattoor had a night to remember, eclipsing 1,000 career points on his first 3-pointer of the evening. He was the 50th Virginia Tech player to reach that mark in school history. Young called him “an absolute pleasure to coach.”

The Hokies’ attention quickly shifts to Duke, though. At this point, they’re going to have to win their way into the NCAA tournament, similar to last year. But they’ve got three games remaining, starting on Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Virginia Tech beat Duke by three, 78-75, in Cassell Coliseum on Jan. 23. It was a back-and-forth game that came down to the wire, and Tech struggled to stop Kyle Filipowski, who had 29 points and 10 rebounds.

This time around, the Blue Devils (20-8, 11-6 ACC) have won three in a row and six of their last eight. Their lone defeats: on the road at Miami and Virginia, the ACC’s two ranked squads. And there’s the tidbit that Tech’s 1-24 all-time in Durham.

Hunter Cattoor eclipsed 1,000 career points on Tuesday with this shot vs. Miami. (Jon Fleming)

“It’s going to be a tough environment,” Cattoor said. “We’ve got a lot of dudes that have never played at Duke before so it’s going to be a little bit different for them. But I think we’ve just got to go to practice, get prepared, get back to our identity and we’ll be okay.”

Box Score: Link 

13 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I was most definitely not a math major but:
    Sloppy, lazy passes that become turnovers + poorly-timed, Ill-advised three point attempts = a loss to a Miami team that (much to my dismay) is just better this year.
    Gotta give Larranega some credit… he plated us like a fiddle and beat us like a rented mule.
    Not much else CMY could have done with the style he chooses to play (which I’m a fan of – IF WE CAN HIT AT LEAST 1/2 OF THOSE THREES HE APPARENTLY INTENT ON TRYING).
    Rant over…had to vent…sorry for the outburst.

  2. The better team won last night. Miami’s guards are very quick and were able to penetrate repeatedly into the paint for close shots.

    1. So do we.
      Follow the NIL money and then see who’s getting the Big Bucks, oh maybe it’s Pack and Wong.

    2. What an emotional statement. Saying Coach MY can’t coach is ridiculous. I hope your Mom puts you in timeout for a while.

        1. And we’re near the bottom. I don’t think for a second CMY thinks this is one of his better jobs. If so, then we do need to talk. For better or worse, you are what your record says you are and we are mediocre with talent we thought was better than that,

          1. And we’ve played 1 game with all 6 of our expected top 6 best players coming into the year. I agree that our record says who we are, but who we are is not who’s been on the floor for 95% of our games.

          2. For better or worse, you are what your record says you are and we are mediocre with talent we thought was better than that,>>>>

            Yeah – and a team that lost both games to a bottom feeder like BC – who only beat UVa by 15 last night. What a disgrace.

            BTW – you can tell who watches college basketball games regularly this year – by their inane comments. 🙂

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