In what was an ugly win, the Virginia Tech Hokies (3-0) took their time in dismantling the Radford Highlanders 65-39.
It was not a fast start for the Hokies. Tech was 10-of-29 from the field in the first half, scoring a paltry 25 points without missing an excessive amount of open attempts. Radford played exceptional man-to-man defense, not allowing the ball to enter the paint easily, forcing the Hokies to settle for more contested jumpshots than they would have liked.
On the other side of the floor, Tech’s defense against Radford was suffocating. The Highlanders only consistent threat was fast break points, as seven of their first 14 points on the scoreboard were in transition. However, Radford was just 7-of-26 from the field in the first half and just 1-of-13 from behind the arc. The Highlanders were forced to take late clock shots that were rushed and Tech was able to rebound well to finish possessions.
Radford did not fare much better in the second half, finishing the game hitting on just 28 percent of their field goal attempts including just 2-of-24 from three. The Hokies won the game with a resounding defensive performance, despite a myriad of offensive issues that surfaced throughout the night.
In the second half, the Hokies were able to get an early spark with three buckets from Keve Aluma in isolation situations to push the lead to eleven. From then on, most of Tech’s production on offense originated with point guard Storm Murphy. The graduate transfer had a tremendous highlight pass to Mutts that summed up his significance on the night.
In addition to his playmaking, Murphy was also opportunistic when seeking his own shot, particularly when the defense went under ball screens. He hit on 4-of-5 of his three point attempts to finish with 17 points to lead the team in scoring.
Tech’s front court started slow, but had a terrific second half as both Mutts and Aluma hit double digits scoring with 11 and 10 points respectively. Mutts also pulled in eight rebounds and the duo combined for three blocks.
It was not a great shooting night overall, but Darius Maddox came in as a substitute and was able to deliver two triples. If he can provide that kind of spacing, in addition to the effort level defensively he gave tonight, Mike Young will have a valuable chess piece on the bench.
Radford came into the game ranked in the low 200’s in KenPom so tonight’s performance is unlikely to be good enough against some of the teams coming up on the Hokies’ schedule (ex. Memphis). Tech committed 15 turnovers and were only able to score 13 points during a nine-minute Radford scoring drought, not being able to do enough in transition and being unable to beat Radford’s high zone. Mike Young will need to look at the film and get the issues sorted out.
The Hokies host St. Francis PA (0-1) on Thursday night as they look to improve to 4-0.