Virginia Tech took care of business in Saturday’s matinee in Cassell Coliseum, beating Valparaiso 71-50.
The Hokies (7-3, 1-0 ACC) shot 43 percent from the field — 57 percent in the first half, 34 percent in the second — and limited the Beacons (4-6, 0-2 MVC) to just 40 percent on the other end.
Tech was without point guard Sean Pedulla, who had his right foot in a boot due to a sprain suffered on the final play against Louisville last Sunday, though he’s expected to be back next week.
As a result, the team was sloppy at times offensively. In the first half alone, it had 10 turnovers, which Young said was “disgusting.” But it shared the ball well, finishing with 18 assists on 23 baskets, and seven of the nine players with 10-plus minutes scored.
“I thought we were more fluid offensively,” Young said. “Still not what I expect from my teams, but better. Precision, timely passing. Discouraged with 15 [turnovers] for the game, 10 in the first half, but this team, like most, all of our teams, have handled the ball well. I think it was just a tough day in that category.”
True freshman Brandon Rechsteiner started for the first time in his young career in Pedulla’s absence and ran point for much of the afternoon. He doubled his season-high in minutes, playing 28 minutes — before Saturday, his high was 15 — and showed some flashes.
The Acworth, Ga., native had just two turnovers in 77 minutes across the first nine games of the year but had three giveaways against the Beacons. He finished with five points on 1-of-6 shooting — his one make was a 3-pointer in the first half — and dished out three assists.
“The game is slowing down for me a lot,” Rechsteiner said. “A few of the turnovers I had today, it was just lollygag stuff, like I got in the air on one of them. One of them I tripped, fell on my hand and then the other one, I just threw it up, kind of a lazy pass. It was just stuff where it’s such an easy fix that I’m not too concerned about it.”
“I think he did really well,” Tyler Nickel said of Rechsteiner. “There’s things that once he settled and got his feet under him that he was able to run the offense, be sure-handed with the ball, be confident with the ball as the game went on. I think it was a great experience for him.”
MJ Collins was one of the other primary ballhandlers and did not score in 18 minutes of action, finishing with one assist and two turnovers. Hunter Cattoor, who led the team with 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three, also helped run the offense. He was 5-of-9 with three rebounds and three assists.
A handful of the miscues were unforced — Valpo had nine steals on Tech’s 15 turnovers. The Beacons, who switched between man and zone — a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 — created havoc and contested everything. Still, a good number of the turnovers were a result of lackadaisical plays.
“When we didn’t kick the damn thing into the stands, we had pretty good things going for us,” Young said.
As a team, the Hokies were 10-of-27 (37%) from behind the arc, including a 50 percent clip in the first half (6-of-12). Nickel had a team-best four treys, which propelled him to 12 points. He’s now scored in double figures in five of this season’s 10 games.
Lynn Kidd posted his eighth double-figure game of the year with 14 points, six of which came from the foul line. He’s 40-of-46 from the stripe this season after a mark of just 59 percent in 2022-23.
Tech scored 22 points in the paint, which came from a few different people. Mylyjael Poteat finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting with six rebounds. Mekhi Long, who started for the first time in Blacksburg against the Beacons, also had six points and six boards. Young said he’s put a number of quality games together now.
Though he played well for the Hokies in the win over Boise State in Orlando on Thanksgiving, Saturday vs. Valpo truly felt like a coming-out game for Robbie Beran. The graduate transfer from Northwestern had a season-high nine points on 3-of-6 shooting and knocked down two of his four 3-pointers while adding four rebounds. He got the job done on the defensive end, too.
“I thought today was a good step,” Young said of Beran. “He’s a thinker and he’s a conscientious person and wants to do everything in his power to help our team. Struggled a little bit offensively, but he knows he’s cared for and knows he’s a big part of it and will continue to be a big part of it as we move along. I think he’s progressing well. Today was a good day.”
Virginia Tech won the battle on the glass, 41-22, and held the Beacons to only three makes from deep on 24 attempts. Young described it as an “encouraging” performance defensively, especially after holding the 6-foot-9 Cooper Schwieger, Valpo’s second-leading scorer at 12 points per game, to two points on 1-of-4 shooting, courtesy of Long and Beran.
“A lot,” Young said of what he liked from his defense. “Ball screen coverage is still getting better. They do have some kids that can score. I thought we did a great job on [Isaiah] Stafford. Schwieger is a good player. … We had a good day out of our four spot, Mekhi and Robbie were good.”
The Hokies have a week’s rest before hosting Vermont (8-3) on Saturday in Cassell Coliseum. It’s a 4 p.m. ET tip on the ACC Network against the Catamounts, who have won seven consecutive America East titles.
Box Score: Virginia Tech 71, Valparaiso 50