Virginia Tech Falls at #10 Virginia 78-68 for Sixth-Straight Loss

Virginia Tech Falls at #10 Virginia 78-68 for Sixth-Straight Loss
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Jan 18, 2023

While the loss of Rodney Rice indefinitely with a broken finger was disappointing to hear pregame, there was plenty of excitement when it was officially announced that Hunter Cattoor was back and starting for Virginia Tech. Given the Hokies' offensive struggles during their five-game losing streak, his return came at just the right time before a tough road game at #10 Virginia that presented an opportunity for Tech to turn around their season.

While Cattoor's return did help turn the offense around in many regards, Tech wasn't able to turn around their season in Cattoor's return to the lineup.

Virginia Tech fought valiantly, but came up short at #10 Virginia 78-68 for their sixth-straight loss to fall to 11-7 overall including 1-6 in ACC play while UVA improved to 14-3 overall including 6-2 in ACC play.

It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance of sorts for the Hokies tonight as Tech's offense had one of their best games of the year shooting 49.1% from the field including 12-27 from three-point range with only 8 turnovers against UVA's always tough defense. Add in the fact that Tech had 19 assists on their 27 made baskets and there is a lot to be pleased about on the offensive end.

However, the defense was not so good in just about every phase as UVA shot 29-57 from the field dominating the paint in a big way with a 36-22 scoring advantage down low. Tech gave up a lot of drives to UVA in this game with their defense in that area being a big issue to state the obvious. Tech also only forced 3 steals on the night with UVA having a total of 5 turnovers which led to a 13-8 points off turnovers advantage given the 7 steals that the Cavaliers had in this game.

Tech also had issues on the offensive glass as though UVA only had a 7-5 advantage in offensive rebounding, the Cavaliers turned that into a decisive 11-6 scoring advantage on offensive rebounds.

While there was plenty of disappointment in this sixth-straight loss for the Hokies, Hunter Cattoor's return was a big positive especially on the offensive end as he provided a big spark with 11 points on 4-8 shooting including 3-6 from three-point range plus 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover.

Meanwhile, Darius Maddox seems to be breaking out of his rough season shooting-wise with a team-high 13 points on 5-9 shooting including 3-4 from three-point range plus 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. Given Cattoor's return combined with Maddox starting to find his rhythm especially with what he did at the end of the NC State game, there's reason for optimism on those front that the Hokies can turn this around.

Sean Pedulla didn't have his best night especially on the defensive end though he wasn't bad offensively finishing with 10 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 rebound. Meanwhile, Pedulla's rival point guard Kihei Clark was the star of the night for UVA with 20 points to go with 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.

Justyn Mutts had an okay shooting night going 5-11 with 10 points, but he was effective making plays for other with 7 assists compared to only 1 turnover plus 6 rebounds. Grant Basile added 12 points on a disappointing 4-11 shooting plus 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.

MJ Collins led the bench with 8 points on 3-5 shooting including 2-3 from three-point range plus 4 rebounds. Meanwhile, Tech's backup big men didn't have the biggest nights as Lynn Kidd was solid offensively with 4 points and 4 rebounds though he didn't have a great defensive night while Mylyjael Poteat had only 1 rebound in a surprisingly limited 2 minute role. John Camden also made a brief appearance late and had 1 block.

Virginia Tech started to look like themselves on the offensive end tonight with Hunter Cattoor, but the defense was disappointing especially given what we've seen from Tech's defense at times this season. However, Tech definitely looked more like the team that they were prior to the start of this losing streak which is definitely encouraging especially since this came on the road at the highest-ranked team in the ACC.

Going into this six-game stretch with 5 Q1 games, it felt like Tech could have a net positive for their resume if they simply go 3-3 adding 2 Q1 wins to go with a win over Syracuse knowing that the rest of the schedule sets up well for a strong close.

While this loss is disappointing, there's still plenty of opportunity for the Hokies to turn this thing around and get back on track in terms of their NCAA Tournament hopes largely due in part to the fact that the ACC is better than last year with the conference headed for 6 bids at worst and likely 7-8 when all is set in done. That gives a little more room for error across the conference.

Additionally, Tech has built themselves more of a buffer with 4 Q1 and Q2 victories including 3 that could easily end up in Q1 over UNC at home and against Penn State & Oklahoma State on neutral sites. For comparison, Tech only had 2 Q1 or Q2 on their resume at this time last season and a significantly worse non-conference record as well.

However, Tech is going to have to play a better combination of offense and defense if they want to go 3-2 or better in their next 5 games and pick up at least 2 valuable Q1 victories for their resume. But the opportunity remains just as prime as it was prior to tonight's loss, the margin for error has simply tightened.