Virginia Tech Rallies From 15-Point Deficit For Wake Forest Win

Hunter Cattoor and Virginia Tech rallied from 15 points down to win against Wake Forest. (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to take down Wake Forest by 11 on Saturday afternoon in an 87-76 win in Cassell Coliseum.

Despite getting down early, the Hokies (16-13, 8-10 ACC) kept their chances of a single bye in the ACC Tournament alive by outscoring the Demon Deacons (18-11, 10-8) 62-36 over the final 25 minutes en route to the biggest comeback in the Mike Young era.

“I was tight as a banjo string,” Young said of his team’s first-half struggles. “… We couldn’t slow them down, we were behind everything, they’re making shots left and right. … I thought cutting it to nine going into the half was significant. We kind of needed it, and man, we took off to start the second half and Coach [Steve] Forbes had to call a timeout.

“… A good afternoon for the Hokies. I’m quite proud of our team.”

Wake couldn’t miss early, especially from behind the arc. It made nine of its first 10 3-pointers, many of which were contested, and jumped out to a 40-25 lead.

But Tech responded well. It clamped things down on the defensive end, limiting the Deacs to just 2-of-13 from deep for the rest of the game. Down 15 through 15 minutes, it fought back. It cut the lead to nine at the break, 46-37, and turned on the jets to open the second half.

“We were just so much more engaged and quicker to the basketball, and Cattoor did a phenomenal job on [Hunter] Sallis,” Young said.

Sean Pedulla and Virginia Tech were good defensively in the second half against Wake Forest. (Jon Fleming)

The Hokies, who were led by Hunter Cattoor’s game- and season-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-10 from distance, scored the first six points in the first two-and-a-half minutes after intermission while Wake Forest started 0-of-6.

Then an 8-0 run, courtesy of 3-pointers from Sean Pedulla (15 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals) and Cattoor, combined with a layup from Lynn Kidd (21 points, 9-of-11, nine rebounds), vaulted them in front with 15:08 remaining. In a span of 10 minutes, they outscored the Deacs 25-9.

From there, Virginia Tech pulled away. Cattoor, Pedulla and Kidd were all great offensively, and it shot an impressive 63 percent from the field in the second half (and 59.6 percent for the game).

“Cattoor offensively was elite,” Young said. “His cutting, his ability to read screens. Lynn, Robbie [Beran] and Tyler [Nickel] at the four, Mylyjael [Poteat] did a really good job of getting bodies on him. [Cameron] Hildreth’s good and Hildreth’s going to top him and make it real hard on him, but Hunter and his basketball IQ got him free, and those are tough shots, those are high-level shots, and he was very, very efficient with 9-of-15 from the field, 5-of-10 from three.”

But it was the defense that set the tone. Wake made just 13 of its 30 second-half shots, which included a 2-of-11 mark from three, and couldn’t get anything going whatsoever. Tech held Hunter Sallis, one of the best players in the ACC, to 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

Efton Reid finished with 13 points (6-of-9) and nine boards but had to work for every basket. And it limited Cameron Hildreth to just 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

Kevin Miller led the Demon Deacons with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds and was their only offense in spots. Tech did a solid job of locking them down on the perimeter and slowing down their dribble penetration. And it also cracked down on the boards and out-rebounded Wake 18-14 after losing that battle 15-9 in the first half.

Mike Young and Virginia Tech were fired up — literally — for the second half against Wake Forest. (Jon Fleming)

“We stayed together,” Tech guard MJ Collins said. “We made some adjustments at halftime about the ball-screen coverage, and once we made that adjustment, going into the second half, everybody was clicking, we knew what we were doing and it led us to the comeback. Just us realizing that there’s good players in this league and we’re not going to hold them scoreless. Just trying to make it tough on each opponent we’re playing, that’s all we can ask.”

Offensively, Cattoor (16 points) and Kidd (14) scored the same number of points as Wake Forest in the second half. The Hokies were 20 points better, 50-30, and received some baskets from Pedulla, Collins, Robbie Beran and Mylyjael Poteat.

Collins finished with 11 points and five assists on 5-of-7 shooting and was huge for the Hokies in a number of moments. Beran had eight points and five rebounds while making three of his four shots, and Poteat got down two of his four field goals for six points.

Especially considering the way they played defensively, those contributions lifted the Hokies to a big victory over a potential NCAA Tournament team in the Deacs. They also got their revenge from their Dec. 30 loss in Winston-Salem.

With two games remaining at Louisville (Tuesday) and vs. Notre Dame (Saturday), Virginia Tech has a shot to earn a single bye in the ACC Tournament, which begins on March 12 in Washington, D.C., though it needs Florida State and NC State to each drop at least one game.

The upcoming road game in the KFC Yum! Center is what’s on the mind of the Hokies next, however. They’re just 1-9 in opposing venues this season, 3-11 when including neutral courts, a stark contrast from their 13-2 home record.

“It feels great, man,” Collins said of the win. “We’ve got to take the momentum and go beat Louisville and then do it again at home next Saturday.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 87, Wake Forest 76

3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Impressive comeback! I was about to shut down the TV when down 15. I bleed Hokies, it’s hard to watch when we’re getting killed, glad I stuck it out just like our team.

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