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Virginia Tech basketball: Hokies take down Syracuse for 5th win in a row

The Hokies are now 7-7 in ACC play.

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

The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 15-10 on the season after Saturday’s 71-59 dismantling of the Syracuse Orange in Blacksburg. The win is Tech’s fifth in a row, and the Hokies now sit at 7-7 in ACC play, 2.5 games behind Virginia and Wake Forest for third place in the league.

The Hokies had dominated for much of the game until Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim tied the game at 54 with 6:56 remaining. The crown at Cassell Coliseum began to have that familiar feeling from earlier in the season when the Hokies would seemingly fall apart late in games.

Not Saturday. As we’ve seen multiple times recently, this team is maturing before our very eyes. The Hokies would score two quick buckets to go back up by four, and the defense held the Orange scoreless over the next six minutes of play, building a 13-point lead in the process. Syracuse’s next basket occurred with 50 seconds remaining in the game.

It was a terrific performance from the Hokies on the defensive end of the court. Tech didn’t have its best shooting night against Syracuse’s famed zone defense, but still connected on eight 3-point attempts. As a team, the Hokies shot 38% from the floor. One positive development for the Hokies was their performance from the charity stripe. The Hokies took 21 trips to the free-throw line, converting on 17 of those attempts.

Another positive for Virginia Tech was 20 assists on 23 made buckets and only four turnovers. Those are things we weren’t seeing early in the season.

Justyn Mutts had himself a night, recording only the second triple-double in school history, scoring 12 points, pulling down 14 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists.

Keve Aluma scored 20 points for the Hokies, while Hunter Cattoor added 14 points and Nahiem Alleyne chipped in with 11 points. Freshman point guard Sean Pedulla continues to see significant minutes, as he played 19 minutes and starter Storm Murphy played 14 minutes. Darius Maddox gave the Hokies 10 points off the bench. The improvement of Pedulla and Maddox this season is another encouraging development.

The Hokies are back in Cassell on Monday when the Hoos come to town. UVa won the first meeting in Charlottesville and this is a huge game for both schools. A win over the Cavaliers would only enhance VT’s NCAA Tournament resume. Both teams are playing their best basketball of the season — a sign of excellent coaching, which is no surprise.