The Hokies traveled to Raleigh seeking their first win streak since November against an N.C. State side that got the better of them in Blacksburg just two weeks ago.
Coincidentally, they played their best first half of basketball since November, racing out to a 19-2 lead behind strong defense holding the Wolfpack to a 0-of-9 start from the field. At one point, the Hokies were up 31-13 with a shade over two minutes left in the first half and were well-positioned to control the game from wire-to-wire. N.C. State’s phenom freshman, Terquavion Smith, was also held to 0 points in the first twenty minutes, another sign of how strong Tech's defense was in the first half.
N.C. State clearly had other ideas in mind in the second half. After they had only 21 points in the first half, the Wolfpack scored 17 points by the first media timeout of the second. N.C. State had cut the once 18-point margin to just four with 13 minutes left in the game, and while Tech was able to keep the Wolfpack at arm’s reach mostly, the Hokies’ 12 second half turnovers were enough to find themselves only up by two with four minutes left.
Storm Murphy, who had a good night on the offensive end driving and dishing, was able to put the game away with his only three-point make of the night followed up by a drawn charge on defense. Tech led 60-53 at that point and with just two minutes left on the clock, it seemed like a wrap.
However, Kevin Keatts allowed his athletic team to go to a full court press and forced four Virginia Tech turnovers in a row – all by Naheim Alleyne. After a strong, potentially slump-breaking showing against Notre Dame, Alleyne finished shooting just 3-of-14 from the field along with a crippling five turnovers with a negative efficiency rating, the only person on the Hokies to do so.
Luckily for the Hokies, those four turnovers in the final minute did not lead to a loss. With Tech up one point late, Sean Pedulla stepped up to the charity stripe and knocked down both free throws to ensure a Virginia Tech win.
Although it was not flashy, Justyn Mutts had an excellent game. It was not just his shooting, where he went 6-of-8 for 13 points leading the team in scoring. It was not just his passing either which was once again excellent, but his hustle. He was active on the offensive glass with four offensive boards, allowing Tech to extend possessions and get easy second chance opportunities. He led the team in efficiency and should get game ball from Mike Young.
Overall, the Hokies shot 49.1 percent from the floor, but went just 7-of-24 from three as N.C. State’s perimeter defenders were athletic enough to close out on shooters with speed and length. Buoyed by their strong start, the Hokies’ held N.C. State to just 41.1 percent from the floor and 29.6 percent from three. Tech was plus-9 on the glass as well allowing them to control the tempo of the game at most points of the contest.
Tonight marks Tech’s first road win in the ACC. The opponent was not spectacular as N.C. State drops to 2-5 in conference play, but the Hokies desperately need some sort of momentum as they look forward to the rest of the conference slate of games. With how weak the ACC is this year, it is conceivable that they go on a run and finish with a solid conference record to put themselves in a better position to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies next matchup comes on Saturday as they visit Boston College with a chance to extend the win streak to three.