Virginia Tech Basketball’s Season Ends In Choppy NIT Loss At Ohio State

Sean Pedulla and Virginia Tech couldn’t complete the comeback against Ohio State on Saturday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Here lies the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team’s season, ending the only way it could after a frustrating few months: close but not good enough in another loss away from Cassell Coliseum.

Second-seeded Ohio State held off a late push from third-seeded Tech in an 81-73 win in the second round of the NIT at Value City Arena on Saturday night, ending the Hokies’ season with a 19-15 record.

The Buckeyes emerged in a choppy game with a nearly flawless night at the free throw line, making 29 of 32 from the stripe. Jamison Battle shook off a rough shooting effort to go 17-for-18 from the line to pace Ohio State (22-13) with 21 points.

“You can’t foul. You can’t give a team 32 tries at the foul line,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said. “And they’re a good shooting team. That costs you. And that’s the game.”

The Hokies chipped away at a 10-point halftime deficit, with Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla heating up with 18 points apiece. 

After getting within three with four minutes to play, however, Tech turned the ball over on four of its next five possessions. The Buckeyes pushed the lead back up to eight and put the game away at the line.

It marked the end of a Jekyll-and-Hyde season for the Hokies, who were 15-2 in Cassell Coliseum and 4-13 away from home, with a 2-10 mark in true road games.

Mike Young and Virginia Tech struggled to win on the road all season. (Virginia Tech athletics)

“We had a lot of games on the road that were winnable and games that we were in control of,” Pedulla said. “And then we either didn’t play a complete 40-minute game or we just let it slip away. Looking back, those are definitely the games we wish we had back, just because those are the deciding factors going into March.”

Up next is a stressful couple of weeks for Young in managing the transfer portal as he tries to retain and reshape a roster that has higher goals than playing in the NIT, its postseason destination for the last two years.

“We’re based on getting to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the way it is,” Young said. “We’ve been to two. We’ve been to two NITs. The NIT isn’t good enough. That is not a slight on the NIT. … But the job from this second forward is retooling, making those returning better and getting back to the NCAA Tournament.”

Despite a quick 7-0 lead out of the gate Saturday, the Hokies went into the break down 10, 36-26, due to a rough shooting half that saw them go just 2-for-12 from 3-point range. 

Tech tightened up defensively in the second half, holding the Buckeyes to just 31 percent shooting, and started to slowly chip away the lead despite foul trouble on all their bigs. Lynn Kidd, Mylyjael Poteat and Robbie Beran each had four personals while Patrick Wessler committed three.

“It was just being more desperate, being the more physical team,” Pedulla said. “That resulted in some fouls at times, but we were definitely not as physical in the first half. They kind of took advantage of us in that regard.”

Cattoor, playing in his final college game, scored 11 points in the second half. He and Pedulla, who started 1-for-7 from the field and missed his first five 3-point attempts, lifted Tech back into the game, scoring 15 points after the break. 

Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla did everything they could to get the Hokies back into the game. (Virginia Tech athletics)

“I couldn’t buy a shot in the first half,” Pedulla said. “I wasn’t really forcing anything in the second half. I got a three to go down and the rhythm just kind of picked up after that.

A Pedulla free throw and a three-point play by Kidd, who finished with 13 points, pulled the Hokies within 67-64 with 4:51 left. Tech only got one shot off on its next five possessions, however, turning it over four times, with a couple on errant passes. For the game, it had 15 — eight of which came in the second half.

“Just disappointing execution,” Pedulla said. “The reads were there. And just getting the ball to the other player is what we failed to do.”

Ohio State made sure Tech didn’t get any closer, shooting 90.6 percent from the line. The Buckeyes’ 29 made free throws were the most by a Hokies opponent all season. 

The loss marked the end of a college career for a couple of players, including Cattoor, a one-time Wofford commit who followed Young to Blacksburg and played five seasons in the maroon and orange, a rarity in today’s game.

“He’s been ol’ reliable,” Young said. “He’s like just plug him in night in and night out. He’s durable. He’s a great worker. I was just telling those guys, will there be another five-year player in my career? I hope there are a couple more like that young man from Orlando, Florida. He’s been a real treat to coach.”

Hunter Cattoor had quite the career with the Hokies. (Virginia Tech athletics)

Cattoor wraps up his Hokies career with 1,523 points, one of 18 players in the program’s history to top the 1,500 mark and the first since Erick Green (2009-13). He played in more games (152) than anybody in Virginia Tech history and holds the school record for 3-pointers with 332.

“Just super grateful, just to play five years,” Cattoor said. “Super blessed. You always hear the saying: Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened. There were so many ups and downs to this career and so many highs, so many things that I’ve got to be grateful for. 

“So many teammates and coaches that have been here that I’ve built relationships with. And the people in the community too at Virginia Tech, just a great fan base that’s always had my back. And at the end of the day, I’m leaving an ACC champ. And I’ll be able to hold that forever.”

Box Score: Ohio State 81, Virginia Tech 73 

23 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. “Choppy” might not have been the best word in the title. I read it differently when I first looked at it, though my word was rather appropriate, too

  2. IMO whit should go hard after Mark Byington right now. A Salem HS grad, he would likely be interested. I know everybody loves MY but I see no evidence he’s the guy to take VT to the next level.. It has to happen now; some big school will come after Byington now. It should be us.

  3. Get within 3 points and then turn it over on 4 of the next 5 possessions. That sums up the entire season. Onward and upward to next season.

  4. I don’t sweat the NIT, if you don’t make the NCAA, the season’s over, sort of a weird consolation event, but great if you have a group of young players…which was not the case for VT.

    Good luck Hunter Cattoor, I still have trouble spelling your last name. He’s like how some states vote a “Mr Basketball” been at VT five years and yes always reliable and we’ll always have Brooklyn. Not to brag, but I was there, and my strategy was to visit NYC and buy a cheap ticket for the first round sort of 50/50 thinking they’d win. they win, cool 2nd round. ticket a little more expensive, but no big deal. they win again, tickets now in the triple digits…anyway about as good a bball experience as I’ve ever had enjoying the games one at a time not expecting more.

    Going to miss Kitley, Cattoor and Lewis. I quip we may see Hunter again as an asst. coach on the woman’s team (He and Georgia, you heard it here first) Good luck all.

    1. I remember winning the NIT in ’73. It meant something then as there were only 24 teams in the NCAA and 16 teams in the NIT, if my figures are correct. That total then is less than just for the NCAA. So in ’73 it was a meaningful win to beat 4 teams by a total of 5 points and beating ND in OT.

      I agree though that if you have a young team, the NIT is good as it pairs you up with good teams and teaches the younger players what it takes to get through a tournament.

  5. Thank you Hunter Cattoor for being such a great player for the Hokies for five years. I wish you continued success in all that you do.

  6. Great summary. The team put it all out on the court last night and fought hard to the end. Just came up short.

  7. “The officiating was poor all around.”

    There are very few Men’s or Women’s games where there is a well officiated game. It’s been exceptionally poor in the Women’s game – again. Wonder what the NCAA’s scores will be this year on the Women’s officiating grades for the NCAA tourney..

  8. Am I mistaken in thinking that when both our bigs (Kidd & Poteat) plus Beran were all sat with 4 fouls, we went with 4 guards plus Wessler, and with that lineup, the chipping away of lead from 13(?) down to 3 happened (as noted in the article at the 4:51 mark). Then the guys with 4 fouls started being rotated back in, and the momentum ended with several turnovers and misses. I was hoping we’d stick with what was working as we seemed to be flustering OSU.

    1. despite some contributions scoring the ball, Kidd seemed to have a really rough game.
      I watched about 15 minutes of highlight clips and it just seemed like he was always a beat late reacting to action on the court.

      He has developed into a dramatically better player over the past couple years but he still has a lot of room for improvement in some of the fundamentals like court awareness

    2. Beran especially was a no-show, as he was way too often this season. A guy CMY and staff counted on but basically never delivered….and so it goes.

      1. Right. We have two tall guys (Beran and Nickel) who can shoot from the outside. Supposed to be a big advantage to have height and be able to shoot. And they didn’t help us that much. Nickel still young. But, Beran was experienced.

  9. Never understood what they expected of Beran. Not a scorer, rebounder or defender, yet played a lot of minutes. Looking forward to portal additions.

    1. he was supposed to be a D-and-3 forward. In that context I’d grade him as a C+ for defense and a D+ for offense. In terms of the guys who played significant minutes at the 4, Beran was the best defender, followed closely by Long and Nickel, who was by far the strongest offensively was way behind on D.

      While he generally played good defense (but not great), his style led to a lot of whistles and he was easily pushed around when rebounding.

      Pretty much never got in sync on offense, didn’t set great screens, wasn’t much of a post-to-post passer and never provided much of an outside shooting threat that was his role. If he got a shot down early his presence at the 3pt line did open up the lane a bit, but most games he was cold from outside even when wide open and the D could just sag off him. (last 5 games.. 0-7 from 3)

  10. For Cattoor, not just an ACC champ, but the ACC Tournament MVP. That’s a lot to be able to hold forever!

  11. They played hard, but not well. And both teams were displeased with the officiating. But I’m glad that I was able to go to Columbus.

    1. The officiating was poor all around. Let them push and shove, then start calling fouls.
      They made some iffy calls in traveling violations. Maybe that’s just what you get with B10 bball.

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