Virginia Tech bounced back from their loss to Wake Forest in dominant fashion with a 93-60 victory over Cornell that was close early, but wide open after a 20-3 first half run. Here are my three thoughts on a dominant late night win at Cassell Coliseum for the Hokies.
1. Hokies Get a Much-Needed Get Right Game
Coming off their third loss in four games and looking at a four-game stretch away from Blacksburg that features Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Duke, and North Carolina; Virginia Tech needed a get-right game and performance which is exactly what they got tonight.
Tech didn't get off to the fastest start but their 20-3 first half run blew the game wide open and they were on cruise control after that with arguably their best offensive performance of the season shooting 54% from the field with that number skewed a little due to some late misses from the far end of Tech's bench.
Additionally, it was a good shooting night for Tech's backcourt led by Nahiem Alleyne had 13 points on 5-11 shooting including 3-6 from three-point range while Hunter Cattoor had 11 on 4-8 shooting including 3-6 from three and Storm Murphy had 7 on 3-5 shooting. This comes as Tech's bigs had another strong offensive night with Keve Aluma having 16 on 8-9 while Justyn Mutts had 10 on 3-4 and 4-4 from the free-throw line.
Some of the best signs were the fact that Tech had a 40-22 points in the paint advantage while also turning 16 Cornell turnovers into 18 points, a positive average over 1 point per turnover for the Hokies.
2. Sean Pedulla Shows Promise But Storm Murphy Still Top PG
There has been plenty of recent talk about getting Sean Pedulla more playing time given the struggles of Storm Murphy and some of the bright spots from Pedulla especially in leading a second half surge against Xavier.
While Pedulla continues to show plenty of promise and signs that he can be a capable backup this season to play 8-12 minutes in ACC play, Tech's best option is still Storm Murphy.
Tonight showed that while Pedulla can run the offense competently, he still looks like a freshman at times running the point while also still working off ball at times with Hunter Cattoor at the point. Some have complained that there's just been an avoidance of risk and while the Xavier game is a nice data point, Pedulla still has some refinement to do after a couple turnovers tonight.
However, there's no doubt that Pedulla has plenty of shooting talent after putting up 11 points on 4-7 shooting including 3-4 from three-point range.
Meanwhile, there's no denying that Murphy is in charge bringing it up and though Murphy still has some issues at times with a couple of plays where it feels like he's moving before thinking and gets caught in a bind in the paint. However, we've started to see more effective aggression from Murphy attacking the rim along with improved ball movement and shooting that are positive signs of what he can be going forward.
Storm Murphy will need to step up his play more than he has in the past couple of games after a really rough time in Brooklyn or else the progression of Sean Pedulla more force the rotation and minutes split to shift. For now though, Murphy is still the right top point guard for VT.
3. Darius Maddox is a Future Star & Solid Sixth Man Right Now
Among the non-starters, the greatest hype entering the season surrounded David N'Guessan who has looked solid so far and been a solid third big man for the Hokies. However, Tech's true sixth man has been Darius Maddox who continues to show that he is going to be a future star for the Hokies.
Maddox entered the night averaging 5.8 points while shooting an insane 59.4% from the field including 9-15 from three-point range. He received a little more playing time than normal tonight and stepped his game up some with 14 points on 4-7 shooting including 2-3 from three-point range plus 4-4 from the free throw line. Add in in 3 rebounds and no turnovers, and it was an ideal night for Maddox.
There's no doubt that Maddox was well thought of coming out of high school and was developed in a renowned Oak Hill program that has proven to be a a power conference talent machine. Maddox suffered an injury during his senior season at Oak Hill and that undoubtedly affected his production last year and development especially with the complexity of getting through a COVID year.
However, Maddox has taken a massive step forward that most probably couldn't have imagined with him not only being a great three-point shooter, but being someone who can create his own shot and attack the rim being a threat in multiple ways. Additionally, he's done a great job of protecting the basketball with no turnovers tonight while averaging only 0.8 turnovers entering this game in just over 15 minutes per game.
Mike Young said that he feels Maddox will continue to gain more playing time and as long as he keeps being as effective offensively as he's been, that minutes growth should continue to happen.