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Virginia Tech Loses at North Carolina 78-68

Mike Young 2

Monday night’s matchup between the Hokies (10-9, 2-6 ACC) and the Tar Heels (13-6, 5-3) marked one of desperation. Both teams were in desperate need for a win after not having the seasonal or the recent success they have wanted. After losing on the road to Miami and Wake Forest by a combined 50 points, the Tar Heels continued their undefeated streak while playing at home, beating the Hokies 78-68. On the flip side, the Hokies suffered their sixth conference loss of the season and fell to 13th place in the ACC.

Early on, Heels forward Armando Bacot was proving to be a tough matchup for the Hokies. He was having his way early scoring 12 of UNC’s first 14 points of the game. Bacot had a double-double by the end of the first half and ended up finishing with 14 points and 19 rebounds. This was his 15th double-double of the season and his total is among the NCAA leaders in that category. The Hokies tried to bring a double-team early on but were largely unsuccessful. Bacot was gaining inside position on Hokie forward Keve Aluma down low, which gave him the advantage early.

Around the 14-minute mark of the first half, Aluma began keeping Bacot off of the block and away from the basket. The impact by both big men and pre-season ACC player of the year watchlist members was as advertised. Aluma handled most of the scoring for the Hokies in the early going and finished the game with 19 points and 6 rebounds.

Aluma was a big reason why Bacot was able to be “held in check,” limiting him to 7 of 19 shooting from the field. Mike Young subbed in freshman Jalen Haynes for a minute to help keep Aluma fresh and to have another big body on the floor for Bacot since keeping him limited was a big part of the Hokies’ game plan.

Although Tech was able to limit Bacot, they could not slow down Tar Heel guard Caleb Love and the rest of the UNC starting five. All five of the Heels’ starters were in double figures with Love leading the way with 22 points. Love wreaked havoc on the Hokie defense. He hit some well-timed threes and got to the line eleven times, which was among the twenty-six total times the Heels got to the stripe compared to eleven for the Hokies.

The guard play was fantastic for the Tar Heels, but one of their biggest sparks was forward Brady Manek, who shot 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Manek and Bacot contributed to the Heels’ advantage on the glass, where they outrebounded the Hokies in a huge way, 43-32 (16-5 offensive rebound margin).

Surprisingly, as much as UNC gained the advantage in rebounding, the Hokies were able to keep the game close for most of the second half due to poor shooting from the Heels especially. The Heels could not finish in close and went over eight minutes without a made field goal attempt. The Hokies were able to cut the lead to two during UNC’s empty stretch but could not gain any more momentum, failing to record a made field goal themselves for over four minutes late in the second half.

Empty possessions and costly turnovers ruined the Hokies. This was characterized by Aluma attempting to take Bacot off the dribble in isolation after Bacot had picked up his fourth foul. Aluma could not capitalize as Bacot was able to stay in front of Aluma, forcing him to go to his left and Aluma lost control of the ball under the basket dribbling it out of bounds.

The Hokies did get some solid minutes from backup point guard Sean Pedulla who led bench players in minutes played with sixteen. He brought an aggressiveness on the offensive end that Mike Young seemed to like. Yet again, it was another tough night for starting point guard Storm Murphy who had only two points. The guards for UNC locked Murphy up on defense for most of the night and as a result, Murphy could not find much room to operate.

Justyn Mutts had a solid game for the Hokies, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. However, the Hokies could not do much after gaining brief leads late in the first half and early in the second. While up one in the first half, a turnover by David N’Guessan and a technical for hanging on the rim after his missed dunk attempt highlighted the missed chances the Hokies had to gain a significant lead in this game.

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels fed off of the crowd’s energy most of the night. A put back slam from Manek with under five minutes remaining in the game put the Heels up six and sent the crowd into a frenzy. After that, the Heels did not look back. They grew their lead to eleven and then ended up leading by as much as thirteen.

Next up this week, the Tar Heels will stay in their comfort zone at home on Wednesday to take on Boston College (8-10, 3-5 ACC). For the Hokies, their schedule does not get any easier with their next two games being against the top two teams in the conference. They will take on Miami (14-5, 6-2 ACC) at home Wednesday and then they are on the road against Florida State (13-5, 6-2 ACC) this Saturday.

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