Virginia Tech might have completely sent their NCAA at-large bid hopes to a watery grave down in the bees nest of Atlanta, Georgia.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets handled the Hokies 77-70 to earn their third win in ACC play. Meanwhile, the loss marks Virginia Tech’s second in their last three games and drops the Hokies to an uninspiring 15-11 and 5-10 in ACC play. Losses like these don’t do the Hokies any favors as they continue to search for the best possible tournament resume heading down the regular season stretch.
Tech came out of the gate flat as Grant Basile scored the Hokies first nine points spanning across the first four minutes and change of the game. The Hokies ran even with the Yellow Jackets for the first 15 minutes of the contest, before yielding a 9-0 run that elevated GT’s lead into double figures.
By halftime, the deficit was 10 points and the Hokies were left searching for answers. VT shot 41% from the field and an ugly 1-9 from three point range through the game's first 20 minutes.
In the second half, Tech’s offensive execution was the model of inconsistency. Basile and Justyn Mutts went to work as they did all game. However, the Hokies still found themselves struggling to put the ball in the basket for major portions of the second half. The first scoring drought went over six and a half minutes from the start of the second half until Basile made a putback layup.
After breaking the ice, VT found a better rhythm with Pedulla, Basile, and Mutts hitting shots in a variety of ways. The Hokies were able to cut into the Yellow Jackets lead so much so that it became a five-point game at the 10 minute mark. However, after Pedulla’s transition layup, Tech didn’t notch a basket until below the six minute mark. From there, the Hokies' defense couldn’t stop the red hot shooting of Georgia Tech.
For the game, Virginia Tech shot 41% from the floor and 26% from behind the arc. On the other side, Georgia Tech shot it at one of their best clips of the season, racking in a 45% field goal percentage and knocking down 50% of their three pointers on 11-22 attempts. Interestingly, the Yellow Jackets came into the night a bottom three team in three point efficiency, converting nearly less than 30% of their long distance shots.
Tech fans thought it was just bad luck when Boston College did the same thing but after Wednesday night's performance, it’s clear the Hokies underestimated and underprepared for their opponent.
Once again, the Hokies leading scorer was Grant Basile, who scored 21 points on 10-21 shooting from the floor. Basile also grabbed seven rebounds and registered a pair of blocked shots. Additionally, Basile’s frontcourt partner Justyn Mutts had himself a night.
Mutts put together several highlight reel dunks and provided an all-around spark that Mike Young could only have wished translated to the rest of the team. Mutts totaled 17 points on an efficient 8-16 shooting from the field. Mutts also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out nine assists, nearly putting up a triple-double in the losing effort.
The two things that plagued the Hokies once again were a lack of bench production and the starting guards not stepping up. Lynn Kidd provided decent production with six points and three rebounds. However, with no return of Darius Maddox in sight and no Rodney Rice, Tech’s depth has been shattered, and Mylyjael Poteat and John Camden haven’t been reliable pieces to the puzzle.
Furthermore, the Hokies starting trio of guards in Sean Pedulla, Hunter Cattoor, and MJ Collins shot a combined 9-29 from the floor which equates to a 31% field goal percentage. That can’t cut it in a must-win road game with Big Dance dreams on the line.
Now Virginia Tech is in a precarious position. Mike Young’s bunch has struggled before but not necessarily to this degree. At this stage last season, the Hokies were going on a run and improving by the game. We thought that looked like the case after Tech’s win over arch-rival Virginia.
However, the recent performances versus Boston College and now Georgia Tech have shown us that clearly isn’t the case.
Virginia Tech’s tournament hopes rest on what lies ahead in Greensboro. They will have to win the majority of their remaining regular season schedule, hope they can snag one bye to round two and then run the table for an automatic bid. Otherwise, this loss might have marked the nail in the coffin for what was a promising season for Tech men’s hoops.