Up by five with a mere seconds on the clock in a 73-68 game, Virginia Tech felt comfortable with their two possession lead over Old Dominion. Maybe, the Hokies shouldn’t have felt all too comfy as their complacency led to a Mekhi Long three pointer to cut Tech’s lead to two.
Now the heat of an upset dripped down the Hokies backs. Off the inbounds, Hunter Cattoor was fouled and went to the line for two pressure cooker free throws. The senior captain delivered, knocking down both shots from the charity stripe and gifting the Hokies the all-important four point advantage.
A missed three pointer from Old Dominion’s Chaunce Jenkins ensured Virginia Tech’s 75-71 win over the Monarchs. Survive and advance is the name of the game in March but in this case it was the way of Thursday afternoon’s game for the Hokies. Tech got out to a 39-25 lead by the halftime break that was as much as 20 late in the first half, although the signs of rust were there in several phases of the game.
Tech jump started the game with an interesting shift to the starting lineup. Lynn Kidd received the nod from coach Mike Young in favor of Grant Basile. Kidd started in Tech’s opening win against Delaware State but was moved to the bench in the next two games. Basile started in the Hokies trifecta of home bouts to start the year.
However, as the matchup unfolded, it became clear who got the start was irrelevant in this case. Basile soon checked into the game off the bench and immediately made his presence felt. The grad transfer played 25 minutes to Kidd’s 12 and scored 15 points with three makes from beyond the three-point arc.
The Hokies clearly exceeded the Monarchs in several key team statistical categories. Tech was more efficient from every level, shooting a 45%/44%/73% efficiency line to Old Dominion’s mark of 41%/32%/58% for the game. The Hokies also totaled 13 assists to the Monarch’s 10 while committing one less turnover and personal foul. So how was this such a close game?
Summed up in a word: rebounding. Virginia Tech was manhandled on the glass, losing the battle of the boards 46-32 to ODU. Even worse for Tech, they were swarmed by the Monarchs' excellent offensive rebounding. The Monarchs grabbed 18 offensive rebounds to the Hokies' six.
In the second half, Virginia Tech’s defense took a nosedive and allowed Old Dominion to slowly but surely claw their way back. The Hokies allowed the Monarchs to shoot a blistering 53% (19-36) and nail 5-12 (42%) of their three point jumpers. Certainly the eye test backed up these concerning numbers as Tech’s defensive rotations and point of attack defense were silent in the second half.
It was the standout offensive performances that led the Hokies to the win. For the third-straight game, Sean Pedulla led the Hokies in scoring with 18 points. Once again, Pedulla looked like a walking bucket on the floor, shooting 7-15 from the floor and hitting two of his five shots from three point land. It’s a great sign for Tech that even in games where the Hokies look off their game, Pedulla is on his. Additionally, the standout sophomore point man dished out seven assists, nearly tying his season high of eight that he set in game one of the season. Through four games, Pedulla is averaging 19.5 PPG on 51/48/71 efficiency splits.
The Hokies had four other scorers crack double digits Thursday afternoon. As previously mentioned, Basile’s 15 & four rebounds were crucial and gave Tech that strong scoring punch off the bench. As far as the starters go, Darius Maddox chipped in 12 points off a cold 4-11 shooting. However, his two threes came at just the right time for Virginia Tech. Both were behind the arc corner connects late in the second half and went a long way in continuing to fend off the Monarchs late in the game.
After notching just two points against William & Mary, Justyn Mutts delivered an 11 point & nine rebound game with a steal and a block on the other end. The final double digit scorer was Hunter Cattoor who finished at 10 points with a pair of triples and the key free throws to salt away the game for the Hokies.
It didn’t come easy, but Virginia Tech prevailed in their first game away from the luxurious confines of Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies will need to shape up and play a lot better in Friday afternoon’s contest against Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will be a real test as they rank inside the KenPom top 40, easily the highest ranking for a Tech opponent on the schedule so far. It’ll be a noon tip on Friday as the Hokies and Nittany Lions will duke it out on the hardwood for a spot in the Charleston Classic championship game on Sunday.