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Virginia Tech basketball: Hokies take down North Carolina 80-72

The Hokies win their ACC opener.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

On a day when Virginia Tech was scheduled to honor the team’s senior football players, the Hokies hosted No. 18 North Carolina on the hardwood. And anytime you play UNC, it’s a big deal.

Virginia Tech honored the football players since the home finale was canceled due to the tragedy at the University of Virginia. So players such as Dax Hollifield, Chamarri Conner, Kaleb Smith and a host of others were honored Sunday.

As for the basketball team, they were ready for the Tar Heels.

UNC played the game without All-ACC forward Armando Bacot, who missed the game with a shoulder injury and Virginia Tech forward Justyn Mutts took full advantage.

Mutts scored 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Hokies to an ACC-opening win over the Tar Heels. With the win, Virginia Tech improves to 8-1 on the season and 1-0 in ACC play.

The Hokies dominated the game for stretches, going into halftime with a 37-27 lead. Tech opened things up in the second half and was up by as many as 18 points with 12:38 remaining in the game. Mutts gave the Hokies a 57-39 lead, but the Tar Heels began to chip away.

Over the next several minutes, UNC slowly fought its way back into the game. And at the three-minute mark of the second half, the Tar Heels had trimmed the VT lead to 67-64 and Cassell Coliseum went quiet for a moment.

But the Hokies weren’t to be denied.

Tech scored the next four points to open the lead back up to seven points, and UNC scored to cut the lead back to five points. Sophomore point guard Sean Pedulla then drilled the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer to put the Hokies up 74-66 with one minute remaining, effectively ending UNC’s comeback attempt.

Virginia Tech made its final six free throws of the game and gave North Carolina its fourth consecutive loss.

Mutts was one of four Hokies in double figures. Pedulla scored 14, Hunter Cattoor added 13 points and Grant Basile had 12 points.

Freshman guard M.J. Collins gave the Hokies eight points and rebounds in the win.

Next up for the Hokies is a matchup against Dayton on Wednesday. Remember, the Hokies fell to the Flyers in Dayton last season.