Virginia Tech (18-13, 8-12) dominated Florida State (9-22, 7-13) wire-to-wire on Friday night, taking home the season finale, 82-60.
It was a bittersweet night for the Hokie faithful as fan favorites Hunter Cattoor and Justyn Mutts stepped on the floor of Cassell Coliseum for what could be the last time.
Cattoor was Mike Young’s first signee of his tenure at Virginia Tech, and his time in Blacksburg has greatly shifted the trajectory of the Hokies basketball program.
“It means a lot,” Cattoor said postgame. “We both didn’t know what we were getting into. Just building it up and seeing all that we’ve accomplished and all that we’ve done, it’s cool looking back on it.”
With one year of eligibility remaining, it is yet to be seen whether or not Cattoor will dawn the orange and maroon next season. Regardless, Cattoor’s time in Blacksburg has had an impact on the direction of the program.
Justyn Mutts has always had his moments with the fanbase including jumping with the Tech faithful to Enter Sandman, a memory many Hokie fans will never forget.
“It’s been amazing,” Mutts said. “A lot of people don’t get to experience a fanbase like that. I feel like I’m one of them and they should feel that connection to me too. It’s really a family here.”
The traditional energy from Mutts propelled the Hokies to a 14-0 run to start the game en route to a nine-point lead at the break. Tech’s hot shooting and stellar defense combined to give the Hokies a comfortable halftime lead.
“We were electric in our gaps defensively and rebounding the ball,” head coach Mike Young said. “We were all of that and more tonight. We played the game the right way.”
After shooting 15-of-24 from the field and swarming defensively in the first half, the Hokies looked to be in good shape entering the halftime break.
Florida State pulled within four to start the second half, as Seminoles guard Caleb Mills scored seven straight points. Despite the run by the Seminoles, the Hokies responded with one of their own. Tech created some distance with a 23-8 run and Florida State failed to narrow the gap from that point on.
The Hokies success offensively came from solid passing and decision-making, garnering 21 assists on 29 made baskets.
“They executed their offense better than we executed our defense,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said postgame. “I was extremely impressed with how they executed and moved the ball. They did a very good job of finding their people and making good decisions.”
Virginia Tech’s offensive attack was anchored by sophomore point guard Sean Pedulla, who scorched the net with 25 points, going 6-for-8 from behind the three-point arc.
“Shots just felt good,” Pedulla said postgame. “My teammates were doing a good job of finding me and at that point I was just knocking down the shots that I usually do.”
Hunter Cattoor also found the bottom of the net from long range, knocking down four of the Hokies 16 threes. A solid defensive performance from Cattoor as well, continuing to prove why he’s the Hokies’ Swiss Army knife.
“He didn’t even score a point in the first half,” Young said. “He’s the best cutter we’ve got, he’s the best screener we’ve got… and he’s going to draw the other team’s best backcourt player every game. It’s been a real treat having him here.”
With the victory, the Hokies enter familiar territory, traveling to Greensboro as winners of two-straight to try and make a run in the ACC Tournament.
“We’re taking an older team to Greensboro,” Young said. “We’ve got a good look about us and hopefully we can stay there awhile.”
The Hokies grab their eighth ACC victory in the season finale, clinching the 11-seed in the ACC Tournament. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Tech has one thing in mind entering the gauntlet of the ACC Tournament, win a second-straight title to book an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.