It was fair to wonder if Virginia Tech could be headed for a trap game Saturday evening against a struggling Georgia Tech, especially since they were fresh off of two wins against NC State and Boston College, and had a Big Monday showdown with No. 12 Duke looming in two days. However, the Hokies came out as a team on a mission, understanding they need every win they can get as they look to make the 2024 NCAA Tournament. And despite a Yellow Jacket second half surge that cut VT's lead to as little as seven, the Hokies dominated on their way to a much needed 91-67 victory.
The first half was all Hokies, as they shot 51.5% from the field, spreading the ball around so that all seven rotational players got on the score sheet. As well as that, they had 13 first half assists compared to just two turnovers, much improved from their average assist to turnover ratio of just 1.20. However, what made the game a blowout, was the combination of stifling defense from the Hokies and poor shooting from the Yellow Jackets. That led to a 29% field goal percentage rate from Georgia Tech in the first half, which is 14 percentage points below their season average.
Despite the poor first half, which led to a 44-28 deficit for Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets stormed out of the gates behind hot shooting early in the second half, eventually cutting the lead to just seven points at the score of 64-57. However, everything changed after a Mike Young timeout with just under eight minutes remaining, as Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor combined for three straight threes while Mylyjael Poteat added a bucket of his own. This 11-0 run blew the game open, and the Hokies never looked back on their to a 24-point victory
While the Hokies got strong performances all across the board, their frontcourt players were the stars of the show. Lynn Kidd dropped 18 points on seven of nine from the field, while his starting frontcourt mate, Robbie Beran, had 14 points and nine rebounds.
But the biggest star was Mylyjael Poteat who had arguably the best game of his career, dropping 18 points, to go along with six rebounds, and two emphatic blocks. His 18 points tied his career high that he previously set at Rice against UAB on January 8th, 2022. Almost all of work came around the rim whether he was making easy buckets in the paint or drawing fouls and making free throws, going 6-6 from the free-throw line in this game.
As a team, the Hokies scored 36 points in the paint, which is the most they have scored in the paint since their game against American before Christmas. When they have their bigs dominating this way on the interior, and their shooters knocking down threes at a 44% clip on the perimeter, the Hokies are a tough team to beat.
These are the types of games that Virginia Tech can’t afford to lose. With seven losses this season, already, the Hokies likely have to beat all the inferior teams they play, while also picking up one or two big wins throughout the remainder of the season to get into the NCAA Tournament. This was a prime example of the Hokies proving they are the better team, as they needed to do. Georgia Tech, at 9-11 now, is a talented but very young team that is likely a year or two away from turning the corner.
Talented freshman Baye Ndongo led the Yellow Jackets in points and rebounds, going for 16 and nine. Junior Miles Kelly was the only teammate that was able to join Ndongo in double figures, scoring 11 points.
This is a great win for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies look forward to a massive game against the 12th ranked Duke Blue Devils. While Duke comes in as the superior team on paper, the Hokies have had great success at home winning five of their last six games against Duke inside Cassell Coliseum.