Virginia Tech Survives Late Pittsburgh Surge For 76-71 Victory

Virginia Tech Survives Late Pittsburgh Surge For 76-71 Victory
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Jawhar Ali | @soundslikejafar

TLP: Writer
Feb 06, 2022

Virginia Tech, despite a twenty-seven point lead after a half of play, needed a late run to close out their third straight win in the conference. It was a game that perhaps should have been over much earlier than it was against a team the Hokies will play twice in three days.

It was a tale of two halves to an extreme. A run of thirteen consecutive made baskets for the Hokies seemed unattainable, until Pittsburgh opened the second half with equal shooting prowess, making twelve of their first fifteen field goal attempts. Both teams had success scoring, with the Hokies shooting 57.8 percent from the field and the Panthers knocking down 56.8 percent of their shots.

Despite Pittsburgh’s 32-11 run to start the second half, the Hokies never relinquished the lead. With four minutes on the clock, the Hokies steadied the ship with a Murphy triple, layup, followed by a clutch three from Naheim Alleyne. Murphy has had an excellent string of games in the last week, and led the team in scoring with 20 points with the highest efficiency rating on the team.

It was another quiet day in general for Keve Aluma, scoring just six points as he was not aggressive looking for his shot as Pittsburgh looked to double him on the low block as soon as he touched it. Cattoor picked up two early fouls which surely disrupted his rhythm, as he shot just 1-of-5 from the field accounting for only three points.

As a team, the Hokies relied on their recent run of success from behind the arc which continued tonight as they made fourteen triples in this game. Eight different Hokies registered a three-pointer made, led by Alleyne’s four threes and followed by Murphy’s three triples. As a team, the Hokies shot 14-of-26 from behind the arc – however, they were just 4-of-13 from long range in the second half. Tech attempted just eight field goals from inside the arc, where they were 4-of-8. Overall, the Hokies shot incredibly well but their overreliance on the perimeter is a weakness for the team, especially late in games.

Pittsburgh was able to take advantage of poor free throw shooting from the Hokies, as they were able to cut the lead to 73-69 late. The more concerning aspect of the second half was the Hokies’ inconsistent ability to handle ball pressure, as Pittsburgh forced sixteen turnovers in the game with ten of them forced in the second half. Justyn Mutts played a strong overall game, but was credited with eight of those turnovers. Pittsburgh’s main offense for a portion of the game was built on their 26 points off turnovers, which allowed them to rally back from a 28-point deficit.

Credit is due where credit is due for the Panthers, despite the Hokies’ errors. Jamarius Burton and Femi Odukale led the game in efficiency ratings and combined for 46 of the Panthers’ 71 points. Odukale accounted for six steals on his own and shot 5-of-7 from three. Head Coach Jeff Capel will look to take some of these positive performances into account as these two sides square off again on Monday.

A win in college basketball is never a bad thing, as tonight moves Tech up ninth in the standings with a 5-7 ACC record. Pittsburgh’s dominance in the second half sets things up to be much more interesting in Blacksburg, as Jeff Capel’s side will have ample confidence to be able to pull off an upset against a team they are capable of outplaying.