Photo Credit: Johnnie Izquierdo/Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (@Hoophall)
48 hours ago, Virginia Tech had just lost their Saturday night game against Temple and was looking for a replacement. Meanwhile, #3 Villanova had just won the Empire Classic at Bubbleville and was looking for an extra non-conference game while they were still at the Mohegan Sun. Within hours, the two had a game that felt like a pickup game at the YMCA where Villanova was the king of the court and Tech had next man up and at minimum, a major strength of schedule boost for the Hokies.
However, Tech showed that they were more than ready for this last-minute addition and became the new kings of the court at the Mohegan Sun Bubbleville.
Virginia Tech upset #3 Villanova 81-73 to improve to 2-0 on the season while the Wildcats fell to 2-1 on the season. Tech has one more game in Bubbleville tomorrow night against South Florida before heading back to Blacksburg for a December 3rd game against VMI.
The Hokies were great in the paint especially on the offensive end as they had a 10-7 offensive rebound advantage and a 32-22 points in the paint advantage. Villanova countered that with a 20-5 advantage in points off turnovers, but the Hokies also shot the ball well from deep as they were 10-20 from three-point range while Villanova was 9-25 from deep.
While the three-point shooting proved to be sharp, the biggest star was once again Wofford transfer Keve Aluma who set a new career high with 23 points on 9-14 shooting to go with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Aluma was dominant in the post and won his matchup against Villanova star Jeremiah Robinson-Earl convincingly as he has already emerged as a breakout star. He also was big in some of the bigge
Nahiem Alleyne was also big for Tech as he had 20 points on 7-12 shooting including 4-6 from three-point range as he made some big shots in key moments. Alleyne may be Tech's most versatile shooter and has shown some great shot creation as he continues to take steps forward in his sophomore season.
Justyn Mutts made some big plays as well especially in overtime as he had 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steal including a big three followed by a steal and getting fouled early in overtime to take control of the game. Tyrece Radford had a strong performance as well with 8 points, a team-high 13 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Wabissa Bede may have fouled out but had a quality game with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists while Cartier Diarra fouled out in overtime but made some big plays down the stretch finishing with 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Collin Gillespie led the way for Villanova with 25 points on 8-14 shooting including 4-7 from three along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Caleb Daniels had 17 points while star big man Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was held to only 14 points on 5-15 shooting plus 9 rebounds.
This was a mature team that showed up tonight fighting back after going down to 11 to slowly chip away at Villanova's lead before Keve Aluma gave the Hokies the lead with seconds to go in regulation. That maturity showed again with their strong start in overtime after a bizarre end to the game due to a refereeing error, something that both Mike Young and his players deserve tons of credit for.
The biggest thing that you can see is a culture of toughness and belief that starts from the head coach and emanates from veterans like Wabissa Bede along with guys like Justyn Mutts, Cartier Diarra, and Keve Aluma. That shows across the board for the Hokies and is a big reason why Tech has now pulled off a pair of upsets over top 5 teams in the first year+ of the Mike Young era.
While NCAA Tournament talk got out of control last year for Virginia Tech after beating Michigan State, it's more than reasonable to talk about Tech as an NCAA Tournament team that has a signature win to put themselves comfortably in the Big Dance early on this season.
We will have more as this story develops.