In offseason interviews, Mike Young made it clear that improving Virginia Tech's defense was a top priority for the Hokies this offseason. On their opening night, the work Tech put in the offseason produced its first fruit with reason for optimism even with the caliber of the opponent faced in this game.
Virginia Tech beat Coppin State 100-55 to open their season 1-0. The Hokies will face their first notable test of the season this Friday night in Charlotte when they take on South Carolina in an intriguing early season matchup between major conference teams.
Tech's defense was on full display in the first half keeping Coppin State completely in check while the Hokies' offense slowly warmed up. In that first half, the Hokies held Coppin State to a measly 25.9% (7-27) from the field while forcing 12 turnovers and allowing only 19 points.
Now Coppin State may be 357th in KenPom, but this looked like a legitimately solid defense in this game and not just one benefitting from a very weak opponent.
Tech held Coppin State to 37.3% (19-51) shooting for the game including 29.4% from three-point range while forcing 19 turnovers. Tech took advantage of those turnovers in this game turning those into 30 points and having a 26-point advantage in points off turnovers that helped widen the margin of victory further.
This game was close for the first several minutes, but Tech turned it on during the middle of the first half going on a 25-4 run to open up a 34-9 lead over the Hokies that continued to slowly widen from there.
Star point guard Sean Pedulla led the way for the Hokies in this game with 15 points on 5-11 shooting including 3-7 from three-point range plus 10 assists, four rebounds, and two steals. After an inefficient sophomore season, Pedulla was much more efficient in this game while also showing growth as a playmaker at the point.
Lynn Kidd started his season well with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the second of four Hokies who finished in double figures. Veteran Hunter Cattoor opened his season well with 13 points on 3-5 from three-point range and 4-4 from the free-throw line plus four assists and two rebounds.
Tyler Nickel was the biggest star of the many debutants in this game having 12 points and seven rebounds on 4-9 shooting from the field plus 2-2 at the free-throw line along with seven rebounds, one assists, and a +28 in plus/minus. Nickel looked like the player who set the VHSL scoring record and was a four-star recruit in the 2022 class showing plenty of versatility on the wing that will be quite valuable for Tech.
Mekhi Long led the Hokies in plus/minus at +32 while having six points, 4 rebounds, three assists, and two steals proving valuable on both ends of the floor. Fellow transfer Robbie Beran got the start tonight and had a quiet debut with two points and two rebounds plus a block in just under 15 minutes due to foul trouble.
Tech's freshman guards gained some valuable experience in this game and played well in the process. Brandon Rechsteiner and Jaydon Young both showed off some great three-point shooting each going 2-3 from deep as Rechsteiner had 12 points plus three assists and two rebounds while Young had eight points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
Mylyjael Poteat played well off the bench with nine points on 4-5 shooting from the field plus 1-2 free-throw line shooting plus three rebounds and one assists, while MJ Collins started and had a quiet six points, two assists, two rebounds, and one block. John Camden didn't come in till late playing a little over five minutes with three points and two rebounds.
Virginia Tech took care of business tonight showing early signs of growth defensively while also knocking off some early offensive rust to put in a complete game on both ends of the floor. South Carolina should prove the Hokies with a good early season litmus test to see where this team stands in their pursuit of getting back to the NCAA Tournament this year.