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Virginia Tech Uses 19-4 Second Half Run to Beat NC State 84-78

Lynn Kidd 1 VT NCST 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Coming off a pair of losses to Miami and Virginia, there was starting to be some concern about Virginia Tech's trajectory this season, especially with the Hokies off to another slow start in ACC play at 2-4. After a 19-4 second half run, those concerns about falling off the bubble have been alleviated.

Virginia Tech beat NC State 84-78 to improve to 11-7 on the season including 3-4 in ACC play while the Wolfpack fall to 13-5 on the season including 5-2 in ACC play. This is also the Hokies' first true road victory of the season having been 0-4 on the road prior to this game.

This was a pretty close game throughout the first 28 minutes or so despite the fact that Virginia Tech had 12 first half turnovers, finishing with 20 total, and only got seven points from Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor combined in those opening 28 minutes of this game. However, the Hokies were able to hang around largely due to other guys stepping up including Lynn Kidd and Tyler Nickel.

Things changed down the stretch with the Hokies going on a 19-4 run that included 15 points from their star backcourt duo of Sean Pedulla and Hunter Cattoor. When the moment to take this game over and win it arrived, it was Pedulla and Cattoor who were the ones to deliver the goods putting Tech in complete control as NC State went into desperation mode down 12 with their press.

Mike Young mentioned after the game how Cattoor was able to get more space on threes on dribble hand-offs and Pedulla getting downhill being critical to their success during that stretch.

"They went under a couple dribble hand-offs between Sean and Hunter, and Hunter just rises up and bangs that shot, and I think Sean had the three right in front of me in that stretch, Lynn had the jump hand hook. They're so cognizant of your shooters, so here's the floor, so Pedulla gets downhill and gets to the rim where he's an excellent finisher; his athleticism and his strength, and had a couple of easy ones, and you need those," Young said.

Tech's offense was much better as a whole in the second half as the Hokies had 51 points while shooting 15-24 (62.5%) from the field including 6-12 from three-point range along with going 15-19 (78.9%) from the free-throw line in the closing 20 minutes. After the game, Young had this to say about what he liked from his team offensively in the second half.

"I thought we cut better. We find ourselves chasing the ball a little bit, we didn't do that today. Mylyjael (Poteat) and Lynn (Kidd) did a very good job in loosening it up. As you saw, they're not going to switch with their five so you got to get that five in the screening actions up top early," Young said. "We got them downhill a little bit with a little pocket pass, got them fouled. Lynn had a humongous left hand jump hook there in the second half. Great team effort, great energy, and much, much needed."

Part of the story is about Virginia Tech's play in the paint going even in points down there at 32 while holding DJ Burns, Mohamed Diarra, and Ben Middlebrooks to a combined 16 points. Meanwhile, Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat stepped their games up after only have four combined points at UVA with Kidd having 14, six rebounds, and three assists while Poteat added eight points and two rebounds.

Mike Young had plenty of praise for the play of his two centers, especially with the matchup they faced against Burns, Diarra, and Middlebrooks.

"When those two combine for good numbers offensively, that is such a big deal. People are gonna load up on Pedulla and Cattoor and others. It's significant. It's huge. Proud of those guys," Young said.

The shooting numbers were strong for the Hokies as a whole as they shot 53.1% (26-49) from the field as a whole, 47.4% (9-19) from three-point range, and 82.1% (23-28) from the free-throw line making some tough looks but also getting plenty of quality shots to go. When you have a 53/47/82 shooting split as a team, you're going to win a lot of basketball games.

If there are two areas to critique for Virginia Tech in this game, it's turnovers and offensive rebounds as the Hokies had 20 turnovers while allowing eight offensive rebounds in the second half while getting none for themselves. NC State did turn a 13-5 offensive rebound margin into an 18-5 second chance points advantage, but didn't do much to swing the game with their turnovers as they had 18 of their own and only outscored VT 25-22 off turnovers.

Tech can take some encouragement from forcing 18 turnovers in this game against a Wolfpack team that, even with their performance today, still ranks in the top 20 in the country in offensive turnover percentage according to Torvik.

Hunter Cattoor ended up being Tech's leading scorer despite his slow start offensively finishing the game with 19 points on 4-8 from the field including 3-6 from three-point range plus 8-10 from the free-throw line while adding four rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Sean Pedulla did what Sean Pedulla in being a closer down the stretch of his game finishing with 13 points on 5-10 shooting including 1-3 from three-point range plus 2-3 from the free-throw line. He also had eight assists to balance out his eight turnovers along with two rebounds.

One guy who has picked things up recently is Robbie Beran who had a season-best 11 points plus three rebounds, two steals, and one block. After getting off to a slow start offensively while adjusting to a new system after his transfer in from Northwestern, Beran has picked it up recently with eight points in five of his past six games including double-digits in each of his past two games.

After the game, Hunter Cattoor had this to say about what he's seen from Beran recently as he's gotten more used to playing in Tech's offense.

"I think he's kind of finding his role on this offense. I think he's kind of figuring out where he can insert himself and when you have a veteran guy that's played college basketball for so long, you know he's gonna figure it out eventually, and it's hard going from a different team that you've been in so long, going to a new team. But I think he's doing well. He's helping us out on the defensive end, and especially on the offensive end," Cattoor said.

Tyler Nickel was the fifth Hokie in double figures having 12 points on 4-6 from the field including 3-5 from three-point range plus 1-1 from the free-throw line. MJ Collins added seven points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal while Mekhi Long had three rebounds.

Brandon Rechsteiner had a brief appearance in this game and struggled mightily with four turnovers in just over two minutes. However, Mike Young explained after the game that Rechsteiner's struggles were due to an injury he picked up yesterday.

"He got poked in the eye in practice yesterday, inadvertent, didn't think he was gonna play. Got word this morning that he was cleared through our eye doctor back in Blacksburg. Then we got him on the floor and he didn't look like himself. He kicked it a couple times. He said he felt like he was woozy, played like he was woozy. That was my fault for putting him in that situation," Young said.

Casey Morsell led the way for NC State with 19 points while DJ Horne added 16 points and Jayden Taylor added 15 points for the Wolfpack.

There's no denying the fact that Virginia Tech needed a win badly, especially after suffering a pair of tough losses to Miami and at Virginia. The win puts them at 2-2 over the course of this tricky four-game stretch that also featured the win over Clemson to start it, a record that feels more than satisfactory. Yes, it wasn't always pretty, especially with the 20 turnovers, but the Hokies found a way to beat a quality team on the road in conference play. There's something to be said about that even when you may not have your best stuff in some areas.

While part of the value here is the Quad 1 victory that gets added to the resume, this is also one that Tech needed simply to start to turn things around and get one game away from being at .500 in ACC play. Everyone knew that this win had a little extra importance including Mike Young.

"We needed it. We had our struggles in Charlottesville. We had a shot to win. I thought they [UVA] flat out played better than we did. We had our shot against Miami, we squandered some things in that one. A season is full of peaks and valleys," Young said. "Tremendous [momentum boost], needed it. There's nothing like winning. There's nothing like clearing the air and seeing a team come together and compete together and win together. Now, back up the long trail we go and begin our preparations for BC."

That's where the focus shifts now with home games against Boston College and Georgia Tech that could absolutely be tricky, but are also more than winnable and give the Hokies a clear path to getting above .500 in ACC play before Duke comes into town for a huge Big Monday game. If Tech can build on this win, they can get themselves right into the position they need to be in both for ACC Tournament seeding and for their hopes of making the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

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