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Foul Trouble Derails Virginia Tech in 79-64 Defeat at Pittsburgh

Sean Pedulla 1 VT Miami 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

After a 34-point victory over UVA, Virginia Tech looked to build on that momentum by trying to pick up a Q1 road victory at a solid Pittsburgh. While the Hokies had a solid opening half, officiating and some of their struggles derailed them in the closing 20 minutes.

Virginia Tech lost 79-64 to Pittsburgh to fall to 15-12 on the season including 7-9 in ACC play while Pittsburgh improved to 18-9 on the season including 9-7 in ACC play.

Part of the story of this game surrounds the foul trouble Virginia Tech dealt with as Sean Pedulla, Hunter Cattoor, and Robbie Beran all picked up their third fouls early in the second half after all three dealt with having two fouls for significant portions of the second half. Cattoor would end fouling out on a call where he maybe grazed the hand of a Pitt shooter in about as light of a way as possible without affecting the shot while Pedulla's third foul was on a steal attempt where he got all ball as shown by the replays.

Regardless, Tech had to play with one-hand tied behind their back in some ways, and didn't respond well from that moment onward with Pitt going an 18-0 run to open up a 16-point in the second half. The Hokies would get the Pitt lead down to 10 at one point, but were never able to climb back into this one.

Another struggle for the Hokies in this one was their three-point shooting as VT was 3-20 (15%) from three-point range in this game with no Hokie shooting better than 25% from three. This wasn't due to a lack of good looks as the Hokies missed their fair share of quality looks in this game. Meanwhile, Pitt was much better from three-point range going 9-21 (42.9%) making some tough shots while getting plenty of good looks.

Tech's defense didn't have a great day either, which was more than just because of the foul issues that the Hokies had. Pitt shot 50.9% from the field as a whole with 10 turnovers including only three in the second half while Tech was 40.7% from the field in this game, though they were fairly effective inside the arc, especially in the first half. The Hokies also only had eight total turnovers while outscoring Pitt 11-10 in points off turnovers and 11-6 in fastbreak points.

VT was outrebounded 42-28 including 9-6 in offensive rebounds though the volume of misses for the Hokies exaggerates that somewhat. Tech was way more effective off those second opportunities with a 6-4 advantage in second chance points.

Sean Pedulla was the one Hokie who had a really good day with 26 points on 7-14 from the field and 11-13 from the free-throw line plus eight rebounds, seven assists, and only one turnover. Pedulla has had his fair share of struggles lately, but this was one of the best games he's played in conference play, and the Hokies will need him to play like this on Tuesday if they want to get a road win at Syracuse.

Tech's center duo of Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat also were fairly effective despite Kidd being under the weather according to the CW broadcast. Poteat led the way with 10 points and seven rebounds, though his four turnovers weren't great while Kidd had eight points and two rebounds.

MJ Collins didn't have his best stuff today on his way to having nine points, four assists, two rebounds, a career-high two blocks, and one steal while Robbie Beran struggled on his way to having four points and four rebounds. Hunter Cattoor had his second atypical performance in the past three games with only seven points on 2-6 shooting plus one rebound and one assist prior to fouling out for only the third time in his career.

Tyler Nickel entered the today 13-23 from three-point over his past five games, but couldn't find his shot at Pitt being held scoreless on 0-6 shooting including 0-4 from three-point range while adding one rebound, one assist, and one steal. Jaydon Young struggled as well with two fouls in nine minutes of action.

Blake Hinson played like a soon-to-be All-ACC player with 22 points, three rebounds, and two assists while Jaland Lowe looks like a future star with 18 points, six assists, and four rebounds. Zack Austin was a force on the interior defensively with 14 rebounds and five blocks plus nine points on the offensive end.

This game is a case of two things being true: Virginia Tech didn't deserve to win this basketball and the officiating got in the way of this game in a negative way for the Hokies.

Let's deal with the officiating first. The officiating was too inconsistent throughout the game with too many soft calls while also missing some pretty obvious things. That was especially true in the first half where a clear goaltend and a clear on-the-floor foul on what would be a Pedulla bucket was missed. Foul trouble threw this game completely out of rhythm and the calls that got Tech into that spot were head-scratching to say the least.

However, the Hokies also did a poor job of responding to that adversity. It would be one thing if they lost close, but to give up an 18-0 run is poor from Tech. Foul trouble didn't help, but the Hokies let this one get way out of control with a defensive performance that was subpar to pair with a cold shooting day from three-point range at the wrong time.

The road struggles as a whole are deeply disappointing and while it's never easy to win on the road in college basketball, the extreme nature of this struggle is something that Mike Young and his staff are going to have to figure out in a big picture way this offseason while trying to patch work it in the short term.

For a moment, Virginia Tech's blowout win over UVA revived Tech's faint hopes of earning an at-large bid to the 2024 NCAA Tournament. This loss ends those hopes again. Now, the focus has to be on trying to at least go 3-1 over the final four conference games to get to 10-10 in ACC play, a record that should likely get them in a bye in the ACC Tournament.

If Tech can't do that and has to play on the opening Tuesday in Washington D.C., then you can forget about the Hokies having any longshot chance at winning the ACC Tournament, regardless of Mike Young's impressive conference tournament record.

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