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Virginia Tech basketball: Hokies drop 1st game of season to Memphis

It was a competitive game for 36 minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Maine at Virginia Tech Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies looked like they were about to pick up their first signature win of the 2021-22 season on Wednesday when junior guard Nahiem Alleyne drilled a 3-point shot with 4:36 remaining to give Tech a 56-55 lead over the No. 9 Memphis Tigers.

Unfortunately, the Hokies would go cold from that moment forward and fell to Memphis, 69-61, in the opener of the Upsie NIT Season Tip-Off. Tech’s last five points came with under one minute remaining as guard Storm Murphy hit a layup after the game was decided, and Alleyne hit three free throws with less than one second remaining.

The Hokies missed at least four 3-point attempts and two layups after Alleyne’s 3-pointer gave them the lead. Sadly, most of those shot attempts were wide open.

The dagger came when Memphis guard Landers Nolley nailed a 3-point shot after Alleyne’s to give the Tigers back the lead. A lead Memphis would not surrender again. Nolley scored five points in his first meeting against the Hokies.

Senior forward DeAndre Williams paced Memphis with 16 points.

Alleyne led the Hokies with 21 points, but he missed two critical layups in those last few minutes while the game remained close. It was a terrific performance from Alleyne, but he’ll certainly remember those misses. Keve Aluma scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Hokies. Aluma only made five of 16 shots from the field, including several close to the basket in the second half.

Justyn Mutts finished the game with seven points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Hunter Cattoor scored nine points and uncharacteristically missed two free throws.

Senior guard Storm Murphy struggled against the Tigers. He scored five points, dished out only two assists and turned the ball over six times. Murphy struggled with Memphis’ size and athleticism. He often seemed tentative on the offensive end, too. The Hokies need more from him in the next two games against Xavier and Maryland.

Virginia Tech shot just 34% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. The Hokies made only two of their 12 3-point attempts in the second half.

This was a tough loss for the Hokies, but there were many encouraging signs. Memphis is good. The Tigers are long and athletic and play tremendous defense. Yet, despite not having their best night, the Hokies were in this game until the end. There are no concerns about Virginia Tech losing to a strong Memphis team. The biggest negative in this loss was so many wide-open misses from 3-point land.

Sure, it was a disappointing loss, but the Hokies fought until the end. Next up is No. 25 Xavier on Friday.