Basketball is truly a game of runs as exemplified by Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh today. While Pittsburgh had second half runs of 9-0 and 8-0 to get themselves back in this game, the Hokies' 20-3 first half run and 10-0 early second half run proved too much to overcome as Virginia Tech beat Pittsburgh 67-57.
With the win, the Hokies improve to 15-10 on the season including 6-8 in ACC play while Pittsburgh falls to 15-11 overall including 6-9 in ACC play.
Virginia Tech was the significantly more efficient team shooting 43.9% from the field including 37.5% (12-32) from three-point range while Pittsburgh shot 35% from the field including a poor 23.8% (5-21) from three-point range.
The Hokies also got back to one of their strong suits with 21 assists on 25 made shots with only 10 turnovers, the type of line that the Hokies were consistently having prior to their long losing streak. Additionally, this came against a Pittsburgh that entered this game averaging well over 7 steals per game and had only 5 in this game (Tech had 6 of their own, forcing 9 Pitt turnovers).
Mike Young, in particular, was pleased with Virginia Tech's effective ball movement and limited turnovers being up to the standards that Tech had set earlier in the season, especially given their recent struggles.
"We had 11 assists on 13 made field goals in the first half. We finished the game with 21 assists, 10 turnovers. Those are our type of numbers," Young said.
One area where the Hokies struggled was offensive rebounds as they allowed 12 offensive rebounds while claiming 6 of their own. However, Pittsburgh's failure to capitalize on those second chance opportunities proved costly as the Panthers only had a 6-5 advantage in second chance points.
One area where Virginia Tech will have to improve though is with their defense in the paint as the Panthers held a 30-16 points in the paint advantage. Despite that, Tech did well defending Pitt from outside of the paint with the Panthers struggling both from mid-range and from three as they followed a 3-4 start from behind by going 2-17 after that.
P.J. Horne stepped up especially down the stretch making a trio of three-pointers in the final 10 minutes, 2 of which came during the final 4 minutes. Horne credited his mentality to keep fighting even as Pittsburgh threw their counter punches during the middle of the second half.
"My mentality just to keep fighting. Everybody throw punches. You're going to throw a punch. They're going to a throw punch, but at the end of the day, you just got to keep fighting," Horne said.
Overall, Horne finished with 18 points on 6-9 shooting including 4-6 from three as the junior big man stepped up in a major way in the most important moments of this game.
Landers Nolley didn't have a great shooting day with 7 points on 3-15 shooting including 0-6 from three-point range. Despite that, he did a lot of other things well with 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and only 1 turnover.
Jalen Cone was big off the bench for Virginia Tech with 12 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point range. John Ojiako also had a big day especially in the first half with P.J. Horne in foul trouble as he tied a career high with 9 rebounds plus 4 points, 1 steal, and 1 block. Tyrece Radford also left a big mark on this game going 3-5 from the field and 2-2 from the line on his way to 8 points plus 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
Wabissa Bede had 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists with 0 turnovers as this was the first game where Bede outdid his overall assist-turnover ratio since before the Hokies' losing streak started. Nahiem Alleyne added 7 points and 4 assists while Hunter Cattoor had 6 points and Isaiah Wilkins had 3 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds.
Justin Champagnie and Au'Diese Toney led the way for Pittsburgh as Champagnie had 12 points and 9 rebounds while Toney had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Tech was able to contain Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens who were a combined 5-13 from the field with only 19 points. Abdoul Karim Coulibably was big off the bench for Pitt with 10 points and 5 rebounds, 4 of which came on the offensive end.
There is no denying the fact that this was a critically important win for a Virginia Tech team that benefited from a well-timed week off. This win gets the Hokies' postseason hopes right back on track as they look to reach postseason play for the fifth-straight season. If they do, it'll be the first time since the middle of the Seth Greenberg era when the Hokies went to 1 NCAA Tournament and 4 NITs from 2007-2011.