High IQ Plays Late Help Virginia Tech Past Notre Dame In Greensboro

High IQ plays, like Rodney Rice forcing Cormac Ryan into a tough shot, helped Virginia Tech survive Notre Dame. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC)

Hunter Cattoor wants to be a coach in the future. And on Tuesday night in Greensboro, he made a veteran play for Virginia Tech in the closing moments against Notre Dame that helped seal the victory.

Tied at 64 with less than a minute to play, Cattoor knew how the Irish would defend him. How? That’s his basketball IQ for you. So, he told his coaches what play to run. It worked, and it was the game-winning basket in the Hokies’ 67-64 win over Notre Dame.

Cattoor ran up from the far corner in front of Tech’s bench and set a screen for Justyn Mutts, who was at the top of the key handling the ball. Guarded by Cormac Ryan, Cattoor “wedged” him into Dane Goodwin, Mutts’ defender. That gave Tech’s big man a clear path to the rim for an easy two-handed finish, and it iced the game for Virginia Tech.

“I knew the way they were going to be topping me on that, and we got it earlier in the game the same way,” Cattoor told Tech Sideline afterwards. “We needed a bucket down the stretch, what better play to go to get Justyn Mutts a dunk.”

That instance was one of a few very smart plays Virginia Tech (19-13) made late in the game. On the following possession, freshman Rodney Rice forced Ryan into an insanely tough shot at the rim, which he missed. With 1:10 left, Sean Pedulla turned the ball over but tracked it down and snatched it right back from Ryan.

Sean Pedulla had some tough moments, but he made some crucial plays down the stretch. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC)

“I’ve gotten used to it because I see it quite often, a boneheaded play,” Tech head coach Mike Young said of Pedulla’s miscue and his ensuing effort to get the ball back. “But he’s going to fight like heck to make it right. … Kid just made a heck of a play to get to it and strip that thing out of there. That was a wild sequence but a great play from Sean.”

It wasn’t a pretty performance – there were 14 lead changes in the second half and the Hokies were on the edge of their seat – but Tech found a way to get the job done. It limited Nate Laszewski, who scored 33 points in the Feb. 11 meeting in South Bend, to four points on 2-of-8 shooting. Though Niagara transfer Marcus Hammond had a season-high 23 points for the Irish (11-21) and Ryan chipped in 18, VT stepped it up defensively when it mattered most.

The contest was back-and-forth for much of the second half after the Hokies jumped out to an early lead in the first. They pushed the margin to 12 points at the 7:02-mark in the first; Mike Brey called timeout and his squad countered with a 44-27 run over the next 21 minutes. Ryan drained a 3-pointer with 5:35 to play that gave Notre Dame a five-point cushion, 58-53.

But Virginia Tech rallied. It stood its ground defensively, an area of inconsistency over the course of the regular season. It buckled down and got a few stops. And from that point on, it played the right kind of basketball, outscoring Notre Dame 14-6 and holding the Irish to 2-of-8 over the final five-plus minutes.

“If you don’t switch things with Notre Dame, they will light you up, as they did up there when they made 13 threes,” Young said. “[We’re] trying to keep a body on a body, and we put Basile in a tough spot. He’s got to guard Hammond, who played very, very well, obviously. That touched us up through the early portions – late first half, second half. But when it mattered most, I thought our guys stiffened up and played really well on that end.”

Mutts finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, good for his ninth double-double of the season (and 25th in his career). Grant Basile led Tech with 20 points (7-of-11). Cattoor added 11 via three 3-pointers while Pedulla finished with 13. And though they didn’t score the ball at a high rate, Rice and MJ Collins were crucial in the win.

After Basile picked up his fourth foul with 3:16 to go, Young had a decision to make. He opted to put Rice and Collins – two freshmen – on the floor at the same time. It was the sixth collegiate game for Rice, who dealt with two injuries in the regular season. Young said it gave him “great pause” having two rookies on the floor.

But it turned out well. And they each made some important plays when called upon. Rice’s triple with 1:53 left was huge, closing Notre Dame’s lead to 62-61.

Rodney Rice made some important plays when needed for Virginia Tech. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC)

“They’re fearless,” Cattoor said of the young duo. “Rodney hit a big shot, MJ had some defensive stops, Rodney had a good defensive stop. That’s a growing moment for them. They’ll be able to look back on it when we’re in that moment again and be like, ‘I’ve been here before.'”

“MJ Collins had a great game for us and we wouldn’t have been able to win today’s game without him,” Mutts said. “It’s not about [scoring]; it’s about all of the other little things that he’s able to do. Love playing with him.”

Virginia Tech shot well for the game (48%) and made seven 3-pointers but wasn’t able to take advantage of being in the double bonus. Notre Dame picked up its 10th foul of the second half before the under-12 media timeout. The Hokies were 8-of-13 at the free throw line in the final 20 minutes.

But they found a way to get the job done, and they’ll try to have a cleaner performance on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET vs. NC State (ESPN2). Tech survived the opening round and advanced to play the Wolfpack, who won the regular season matchup in Blacksburg by four.

Mike Young and Virginia Tech survived day one in Greensboro. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC)

Young’s crew knows that their season is at stake with each contest. It’s win-or-go-home. But the Hokies played with “desperocity,” as Mutts likes to say, against Notre Dame. They’ll try to bring that same energy to their second game in two days.

“We know why we’re here,” Mutts said. “We’re here until Saturday, Sunday, we’re not just here just for a day or two. I think we all know it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a lot of trials and tribulations, but at the end of the day, we know what we came here to do.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 67, Notre Dame 64

20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Cattoor was a QB in HS: he’s smart. Rice is a baller. It says a lot about him that CMY has the confidence in him to give him 17′ on this stage. I think we have a great opportunity to advance to the semis. We lost 3 games to Clemson (2) and NCSU by a total of 9 pts. If we can get past State to Clemson, it’s hard to beat one team 3x in one season. Twenty-one, even 20 wins should get us into, “The Dance.” CMY is building a “brand,” just as Kenny Brooks is doing. .

    1. Unfortunately, 21 wins still doesn’t do it. 22 puts us squarely on the bubble. Obviously 23 is an AQ.

    2. If by the dance you mean NIT then yes. Anything less that winning ACC tournament won’t get in dance.

  2. IMO, the game last night will be a big help to us. 1) We WON a game when we were the favorite and almost LOST, 2) tonight we are the UNDERDOG and can win with our “A-game” 3) for sure we can’t look ahead like I believe we did last night after getting up by 12 in the 1st half.

    GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!

  3. ND got us out of our normal game and into a horse race. Great moments near the end. A couple of good plays coming out of timeouts, don’t forget the great Mutts pass to Basile underneath for a lay-in. Rice’s 3 was a key shot in the win. We can win tonight by keeping the game at our pace.

  4. I love Cattour looking over at the bench right after the dunk…”See, I told you” 😉

  5. Good win for the Hokies – one down, four to go. I am not a fan of 9:30 tip, but it gives the team more recovery time which they are going to need to go deep in the ACCT.

    1. our draw plays late games every day. Championship game is at 8:30PM so that sets up well for a consistent daily schedule

  6. Pedulla has to stop turning the ball over so much. If he does, but remains aggressive, we have a good shot tonight. Man, I hope Catoor and Basile come back next year!

  7. To quote Marty Shottenheimer, “ There’s a gleam, men……there’s a gleam”.

  8. Hear a little passing the torch there, Cattoor and Mutts talking about the two freshman.

    Feel good about this team, at full strength with Rice coming on…not too late for him to make a mark in 23. We’ve got a couple more win in us.

  9. That’s now five ACCT wins in a row.

    The road is long, but it just got a little shorter.

    Revenge on NCSU Wednesday night.

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