Virginia Tech shot 64 percent, the highest mark in the Mike Young era, in its 77-55 win over American on Thursday evening in Cassell Coliseum.
“I feel like we’re playing well and moving in the right direction,” Tech guard MJ Collins said afterwards.
The Hokies (9-3) moved the ball well, finished with 23 assists on 32 baskets, scored 48 points in the paint and were 32-of-50 in their final non-conference game of the year. They held the Eagles (5-7) to 39 percent shooting at the same time.
Lynn Kidd had the third 31-point, 11-rebound game in the Hokies’ ACC era, joining A.D. Vassallo (March 2009) and Zach LeDay (March 2017). He was 14-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the foul line while blocking two shots.
“We thought we had a real advantage in the post,” Tech head coach Mike Young said. “Lynn Kidd, 14-of-15, that’s pretty good. … 31 and 11, that’ll help you win a lot of ballgames.”
Tech point guard Sean Pedulla missed his second game in the last three outings with a foot injury. The Edmond, Okla., native cut during practice on Tuesday and it started bothering him again, but he’s fine — “A-OK,” as Young described. He was held out of the game against American out of precaution, especially with ACC play around the corner in 10 days.
As a result, true freshman Brandon Rechsteiner got the majority of reps running the offense. While he made two silly turnovers and only scored two points, he finished with 11 assists. He had a couple of nice finds, including one that traveled from the left wing to the opposite corner and landed in the hands of MJ Collins, who finished with a layup and got fouled.
He had previous games with multiple assists, but no more than three. He’s just the second player under Young to reach that mark, joining Justyn Mutts, who accomplished the feat in his triple-double performance vs. Syracuse in Feb. 2022. He’s also the first true freshman with 11 dimes in a game since Devin Wilson in Nov. 2013 vs. Furman.
“Brandon’s fun to play with. The ball moves, doesn’t stick,” Young said. “He knows that they know, his teammates know, that if they’re open, they’re going to get it. They know where their shots are going to come from. He doesn’t pound the ball into the deck. That’s what our team is supposed to look like. A really good day for him.”
Rechsteiner played a key role in the Hokies’ efficient offense. They were 62 percent (16-of-26) from the floor in the first half and 67 percent (16-of-24) in the second. Though they only made five of their 17 3-pointers, two of which came from Hunter Cattoor — Young mentioned he and Tyler Nickel missed some good looks in the first half — they got good looks inside.
Kidd was good. Mylyjael Poteat scored his one field goal down low and added three free throws for five points. Mekhi Long chipped in a basket. Robbie Beran added seven points, including one three, while redshirt freshman center Patrick Wessler played quality minutes (seven) and was 2-of-3 with four points.
Everyone contributed. The only player to join Kidd in double figures was MJ Collins, who scored 12. He was 5-of-8, hit one of his three 3-pointers and had a terrific put-back dunk on a miss from Rechsteiner.
“It’s fun for everybody,” Collins said of the spread out scoring. “Different people touching the ball, everybody’s contributing to the team. Everybody feels like they’re part of the team, more so than if so and so is scoring and that’s it. We all practice sharing the ball so seeing it translate to the game is good considering the fact that we’re going into ACC play.”
On the other end, the Hokies held the Eagles to 30 percent shooting in the second half (9-of-30), a significant drop from a 50 percent clip in the first. Center Jermaine-Ballisager Webb had a team-high 15 points and added six rebounds. The squad made 8-of-15 threes too but couldn’t hang with Tech down the stretch. The Hokies allowed just two field goals on 11 attempts in a six-minute stretch that about put the game away.
Virginia Tech finished the non-conference portion of the schedule with an 8-3 record. Victories included Iowa State, ranked fifth in the NET on Thursday morning, and Boise State, No. 75 in the NET, both of which came in Orlando over Thanksgiving. All three losses — Auburn, Florida Atlantic and South Carolina — were to top-50 teams. There was also a seven-point conference win over Louisville squished in there.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Tech’s non-conference schedule ranks 148th out of 362 schools. For comparison, the program was 351st in that metric in Young’s first season in 2019-20. It’s the second-most difficult non-conference schedule for the Hokies in the ACC era behind the 2006-07 season, which ranked 135th.
“The Iowa State win’s not going away,” Young said. “The Boise State win’s not going away. Those are two really good teams. … Vermont, that’s going to be a good one when it’s all said and done. … In position to be in position.”
A trip to Wake Forest is on the docket after Christmas (2 p.m. ET on ESPN2 on Sat., Dec. 30) before traveling to Tallahassee. Clemson and Miami venture to Blacksburg afterwards, followed by a quick trip to Charlottesville.
ACC play is right around the corner. Young feels good about the strides his team made through 12 outings.
“We’ve come a long way,” Young said. “I was scared to death early on, I’ll be very honest with you. We’ve made great strides defensively, we’ve made great strides in all of it. … When you’re trying to incorporate new people and timing’s different, terminology’s different, it takes a little bit of time to get that up and running. … I think we’re in really good shape right here. I’m looking forward to what the future brings for this team.”
Box Score: Virginia Tech 77, American 55