Photo Credit: 2021 NCAA Photos
Virginia Tech and Florida put on a thriller to kick off the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with Nahiem Alleyne having the game of his life to keep the Hokies in it after a second half comeback from the Gators. However, a Hokies' foul plagued frontcourt combined with a dominant Colin Castleton proved to be more than enough for the Gators.
Virginia Tech fell to Florida 75-70 in overtime to finish the second season of the Mike Young era at 15-7 with Florida advancing to face the winner of Ohio State-Oral Roberts.
The Hokies got off to a fast start going 12-23 in the field in the first half, but struggled after that with only 12 made shots in the second half and overtime, shooting 12-34 from the field. However, the Gators were insanely efficient shooting 26-46 from the field with Mike Young "flabbergasted" by Florida's offensive efficiency given that he felt "my team did everything we asked them to do" on the defensive end.
Tech did a great job protecting the basketball with 11 turnovers compared to 18 for Florida while holding a 17-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
However, the Gators got it done around the rim with a 12-8 advantage in second chance points despite both teams having 6 offensive rebounds (36-22 Florida in total rebounds). The Gators as a whole dominated the frontcourt led by Colin Castleton doing things in the paint not tracked on the stat sheet that made a big difference.
Nahiem Alleyne was the star of this game for the Hokies with 28 points (listed as 30 but 2 of those points are Tyrece Radford FTs) while shooting 8-18 from the field and 8-11 from the free-throw line. This included Alleyne scoring the final 12 points for Tech in regulation including the game-tying three with 1.7 seconds to go to force overtime on a play that Alleyne said was originally intended for Tyrece Radford.
Tyrece Radford also had a strong game with 18 points while shooting 7-15 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line plus 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
Colin Castleton was the star for Florida with 19 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists; joining an exclusive group to achieve that stat line in the NCAA Tournament. Castleton did more than that having a high-end performance that gave the Hokies fits in the second half and overtime.
On the contrast, All-ACC Second Teamer Keve Aluma had a tough game with 7 points, and 7 rebounds while only shooting 3-6 from the field while fouling out early in overtime. Justyn Mutts fouled out not long after Aluma in overtime with Mutts finishing with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Hunter Cattoor was the only other Hokie to score with 11 points including 9 off 3 threes that came in the first half. Wabissa Bede was key early to help the Hokies break down the press, but had a low volume day with only 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Cordell Pemsl had 1 rebound and 1 assist in 10 minutes while David N'Guessan played 3 minutes.
Scottie Lewis had 15 points and 4 rebounds for Florida while the Gators' leading scorer on the season, Tre Mann, had 14 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds including a big three in overtime to give the Gators a 4-point lead late.
Tech has definitely improved their play since they initially returned from their COVID breaks, but the Hokies still haven't gotten back to their top form. Combine that with being dominated in the frontcourt by Colin Castleton and a Florida team that was quite efficient and it was a recipe for defeat for the Hokies in this one.
However, what is clear is that Virginia Tech has a very bright future with just about everyone expected to be back plus a healthy Jalen Cone and the addition of All-Southern Conference First Teamer Storm Murphy who should be a major offensive upgrade at point guard.
The Mike Young era is already off to a great start with the Hokies having all the pieces to be a top 25 team throughout next season and make a run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.