Virginia Tech Overcomes Slow Start, Fends Off Richmond In NIT Victory

Lynn Kidd and Virginia Tech handled Richmond on Tuesday in the NIT. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech started extremely slow but eventually picked up steam in its 74-58 victory over in-state foe Richmond in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday.

The No. 3 seeded Hokies (19-14) made just one of their first 16 attempts through the first nine minutes and trailed the Spiders (23-10) by as many as nine, 11-2. But they aggressively regressed to the mean and finished the half 12-of-15 to take a 33-28 lead into the break. And they shot 57 percent (13-of-23) in the second half which, combined with good defense, put the game on ice.

“Two points at the under-12 media timeout is a bit disturbing, needless to say, but we’ll get that squared away,” Tech head coach Mike Young said afterwards. “I thought we took a couple of quick shots, I thought their defense they employ can slow you down and cause you to stand. Once we got our teeth into it and the ball started to move, we got a couple of shots down. That’s been the case with this team, really and truly, on a number of occasions. They figure it out and they did again tonight.”

The Atlantic 10 regular-season champions dropped their third consecutive game and never seemed to find a rhythm. Tech held them to 38 percent from the field and A-10 Co-Player of the Year Jordan King, who averaged 18 points per game entering Tuesday, had just six on 2-of-7 shooting.

Isaiah Bigelow, who was a freshman on Young’s 2018-19 team at Wofford, led Richmond with 15 points. He and Dji Bailey (15 points) were the lone double-figure scorers. Tech contested everything, won the battle on the glass (37-29) and took away the Spiders’ strengths.

“Hunter [Cattoor] did a wonderful job,” Young said of Tech’s defense on King. “Our team did a great job. … To limit them to 27 percent from three for the game and 37 overall, really good numbers, and our numbers conversely were quite good as well.”

“We were prepared in the scout, we knew what was coming,” Tech guard MJ Collins said. “… The coaches did a great job on the scout and we did a great job following.”

Jaydon Young and Virginia Tech did a good job against the Spiders defensively. (Ivan Morozov)

Offensively, Virginia Tech was led by a quartet of double-digit scorers: Lynn Kidd (20 points, 9-of-10 FG, eight rebounds), Sean Pedulla (17 points, seven assists, one turnovers), Collins (15 points, 4-of-6 3FG, six rebounds) and Hunter Cattoor (10 points, four rebounds, two assists).

“I think it was just offensively, getting into a rhythm and not taking as rushed shots that we kind of did in the first 10 minutes,” Pedulla said. “Once we kind of settled in and got our feet defensively, I think those shots kind of came a little bit better.”

Kidd was extremely efficient and sparked the Hokies in the first half when they were in a slump. He scored four consecutive baskets to really get them going. Combined with Mylyjael Poteat’s seven points and six boards, that frontcourt duo was too much for the Spiders to handle.

“I was disappointed he wasn’t the most improved player, some sort of recognition, in our league. He’s had that kind of year,” Young said of Kidd. “… Really good play from Lynn throughout, and I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Mylyjael, who had another very good game. He doesn’t have the gaudy statistics scoring-wise that Lynn does at times, but man, what a lift he’s given us throughout the year.”

Pedulla was quiet in the first half with just four points — he made just one of his eight field goals — but was 4-of-4 from the floor in the second and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line.

Moreover, Collins hit a career-high four treys and provided a shot to the arm in big moments. He’s playing with a different level of confidence right now and it’s showing in his numbers.

Since the calendar turned to March, he’s averaged 14 points, four rebounds and four assists per game while shooting 24-of-48 (50%). He’s 11-of-23 (48%) from behind the arc in that stretch, too.

MJ Collins has really taken off for the Hokies in March. (Ivan Morozov)

“It’s a big deal,” Young said of Collins. “He had a couple of big baskets. He is shooting the ball well. … Proud of him. He had some real struggles in November, December — I think he was 0-for-November — but he hung in there with it and stayed the course and has played very, very, very good basketball here for quite some time now.”

It felt like there was a lid on the basket for both teams in the first five minutes of play. While Tech got on the board three minutes in, it took Richmond until the 14:51 mark to score. Then it proceeded to rip off an 11-0 run.

However, the game changed from there. Both teams exploded offensively and made a combined nine shots in a row over a four-minute span. The Hokies finally found their footing again when Bigelow missed an attempt at the 6:23 mark and Collins answered with his second triple of the night. All of the momentum in Cassell Coliseum swung their way after that as they outscored the Spiders 15-6 to end the half.

“I thought we were able to take them out of some of their more traditional sets, which are excellent,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. “They were able to play very well outside of their sets. Pedulla is such a handful, hard guy to guard. When Collins is making threes, now you have a lot of guys on the floor who can really make threes and spread you out.

“… You just need some baskets. Can’t continue to put so much pressure on your defense, you need some baskets so that you feel a little bit better and it gives you some energy.”

Though Virginia Tech had another sluggish start to the second half — it hit on just one of its first five looks in five minutes — that allowed Richmond to retake the lead, a trey from Pedulla tied the game at 39 apiece with 14:04 remaining and flipped the game on its head.

From there, the Hokies outscored the Spiders 35-19 and slowly pulled away. It remained a single-digit game for the next 10 minutes until back-to-back 3-pointers from Collins and Cattoor — the latter of which received a standing ovation from the home crowd when he was subbed out, potentially for the last time ever in Blacksburg — pushed things over the edge.

If Hunter Cattoor did in fact play his final game ever in Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday, he had quite the career in the building. (Ivan Morozov)

“It’s deep, it’s involved. He’s like a trusted friend, and that’s how the relationship has evolved, through great times and tough times,” Young said of Cattoor. “But I’ve always known where he was as a human being. … He doesn’t waver. He’s been a gem. We’ll look back, I hope 10 years from now when it’s all said and done and my time in the business is over with, at a very rewarding five years.”

It was Tech’s 70th all-time win over Richmond in a series that dates back to 1915. The two sides had not met since 2009 in the regular season but have scrimmaged annually since Young arrived at Tech in 2019, including back in October. Though that game felt like ages ago, Young said that little familiarity was helpful in prep for Tuesday’s clash.

Now the Hokies turn their attention to No. 2 seed Ohio State (21-13), who beat Cornell 88-83 in the first round. They’ll play the Buckeyes for the seventh time in their history on either Saturday or Sunday in the second round. The official date and time could be announced as late as Wednesday depending on other results in the NIT, though with the school hosting a women’s NCAA Tournament regional like Tech, it will likely be on Saturday.

Tech last played Ohio State in 2005 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. However, its most recent trip to Columbus was the 2007 NCAA Tournament, where it beat Illinois for the school’s first win in the Big Dance in 11 years.

“I know their new coach, Jake Diebler, very, very well,” Young said. “I think the world of him, happy that he has an opportunity to be a head coach and it’ll be a lot of fun. Looking forward to getting to the Buckeye State.”

Box Score: Virginia Tech 74, Richmond 58 

20 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. But its tough having to listen to the TV commentators spend more time talking about themselves than the game.

    1. Mute the TV and listen to VT radio broadcast over internet. (You’ll have to briefly pause TV to sync w/ the delay in the internet feed.) That uVA j—a– Corey Alexander is the worst. & the guy paired last night is not one of ACC/ESPN’s better play-by-play announcers. CA can’t do an ACC game (any ACC game!) w/o telling viewers that Kenny Brooks is his cousin. I guess that’s his claim to fame.

  2. Possibly one of the greatest lines I’ve seen in a sports article, and perhaps one that could only come from a mathematically-oriented writer at my beloved alma mater:

    “But they aggressively regressed to the mean…”

    Bravo, David. And Hokies!

    1. I am glad you commented on that! I read it twice to make sure I read it correctly. We talk about that all the time at work (NASA/FAA). I have never seen it in a sports article. Loved it. Great line!

      1. As a statistician I was blown away by that line, and stopped reading to make a comment before reading any more, only to discover I was already 4th in line
        Thank you David, you do a great job
        In fact, TSL is significantly** better than any thing else I read.

    2. Ditto. One of the many reason we love David. Can’t say this about all of Will’s hires; but, he got this one right.

  3. The NIT is a fun tourney. Make no mistake, great teams play in this tournament (although they are wildly inconsistent or they’d be in the NCAA tourney) and it’s always a blast to watch.

  4. They looked lost and out of sorts for a while, but pulled it all together. Nice to keep the season going for these guys, Virginia can’t say the same…ugly game.

    1. Recorded the uVA game while watching Hokies. Watched later.
      That was an embarrassment to the ACC, from (supposedly) the 3rd best team in the conference.

      1. At end of season UVA was about 9 or 10th best in ACC. They did all of their big winning before the last 5-10 games

        1. I don’t care too much about the hit to the acc’s reputation. Seeing uva choke never gets old!

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