From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Have Hokie fans been paying attention to what has been going on the past two months in Blacksburg? The top two teams in the ACC men’s basketball standings are not Duke and North Carolina. Instead, it’s UVA and Virginia Tech.
This weekend, Virginia Tech proved they deserved to be there with a 65-51 win over UVA in the
Commonwealth Clash. The team from Blacksburg is ranked in the Top 20 and is making a lot of noise nationally. You might say Virginia Tech is becoming a basketball school. Yes, basketball has been played at Tech for a long time, but it’s in 2021 that no opponent is taking the Hokies for granted any more.
Coach Mike Young has established a new culture in Blacksburg, and Hokies fans should welcome it. But Young says that while the win over UVA was significant, let’s hit the brakes.
“It’s late January and they’re not putting a crown on anyone’s head in January,” Young said Saturday after the UVA game. “We have a bunch more of these head-knockers to go starting with Pittsburgh on Wednesday. It was a great win for us, we played a good ball game against a really good Virginia team, but let’s hang on; we’ve got a lot more to look forward to, we hope.”
With the defeat of the Cavaliers, the Hokies moved to 13-3 overall and 7-2 in the ACC, their best start in school history through nine conference outings. Virginia fell to 11-3 overall and 7-1 on the season with their first conference loss.
On the offensive end, forward Keve Aluma notched a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Sophomore Hunter Cattoor added 15 points on 71% shooting from the field and nailed three triples. As a team, Tech hit nine 3-point shots, one of their highest totals of the season.
With defense becoming its strong suit, Tech allowed the Cavaliers to score only 51 points, tied for the fewest points an opponent has scored against the Hokies all season (1/27/21 Notre Dame). Tech held the Wahoos to just 36% shooting from the field and 35% from behind the arc. The Hokies came up with two steals and four blocks and forced nine Cavalier turnovers.
With just under eight minutes of action left, the Hokies got red hot and streaked to a 19-0 run that put them up 63-47 and clinched the win.
“It’s a big win for us,” Cattoor said in a post-game interview. “Coming in, we had a great scout from our coaches and we executed it. We played well as a team. I thought it was a great team win and a great win to keep moving forward in ACC play.”
This was Young’s first win against the Cavaliers and head coach Tony Bennett, ending a four-game losing streak to the Wahoos. The last Tech win was a 61-60 overtime game on Feb. 10, 2018.