Photo Credit: Johnnie Izquierdo/Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (@Hoophall)
Virginia Tech completed the perfect weekend as the Hokies took down the South Florida Bulls 76-58 in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
After pulling off the 81-73 upset victory over #3 Villanova Wildcats last night, the Hokies had to make sure that result did not impact their performance against a well-rounded South Florida team.
Mike Young went with a starting five of Wabissa Bede, Tyrece Radford, Nahiem Alleyne, Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma for this contest. The game started off with a little back and forth action from both teams as both teams were exchanging baskets on both ends of the floor.
For approximately the first 15 minutes of the game, the largest lead that any team possessed was a five-point advantage. But as the half came to a close, the Hokies really started to hit in high gear.
The Hokies finished the first half with a 15-3 run over the Bulls to claim a 36-23 lead as starters Aluma and Radford as well as Cordell Pemsl each had at least eight points at the break with Radford having a team-high 9.
The defense was the bright spot for Virginia Tech in the first half as they held South Florida to 9-24 shooting from the field while keeping two of their starters scoreless.
In the second half, the Hokies continued to dominate the Bulls as they maintained a significant lead throughout the half that grew to as large as 21 points. The closest South Florida got was within 11 points, and that came in the first few minutes of the half.
After shooting nearly 52% in the first half, the Hokies shot 57% in the second half making 12 of their 21 attempts. The team did struggle behind the arc on the night as they only converted on 5 of their 16 shots.
Despite some few early hiccups, this game was all Virginia Tech as they earned their way to a 3-0 start.
As a team, the Hokies out did the Bulls in two major categories: points off the bench (33-11) and points in the paint (42-24).
Three Hokies came off the bench and reached double figures in scoring with Hunter Cattoor putting up 13 points, and Pemsl and Cartier Diarra having 10 points each.
The point in the paint battle demonstrated how the Hokies have seen an interior scoring transformation that has relieved the pressure on their outside shooting.
One player who didn’t shy away from working the ball inside was Tyrece Radford, who scored a game-high 21 points on 9-12 shooting.
After a 22-point performance on Saturday night, Keve Aluma reached double figures again for the Hokies with 12 points on 5-8 shooting including 2-3 from three-point range.
Despite being the lone Hokie to foul out in Sunday’s game, Justyn Mutts led Virginia Tech in nine rebounds while Pemsl also collected six boards coming off the bench.
Virginia Tech was once again successful from the free throw line, making 17 of their 21 attempts in the game; Cattoor went 6-8 from the stripe while Diarra was an impressive 4-5.
For the Bulls, Caleb Murphy led the way with 11 points on 4-13 shooting as Michael Durr recorded 10 points on 5-10 shooting and 7 rebounds.
After knocking off #3 Michigan State last season at the Maui Invitational, the Hokies closed out the tournament with two losses against Dayton and BYU. Coming out and taking care of business the next day after defeating #3 Villanova shows the growth and maturity of this team to not have a hangover from last night, especially given the grind out nature of that game.
Up next, the Hokies return to Cassell Coliseum where they will take on the VMI Keydets (1-1) on Thursday, December 3rd at 8:00pm on the ACC Network.