Oh man! What a game and a stellar performance by the Hokies on defense aided by the superstar effort by Keve Aluma who just dominated the scoring for all players with 24 points. It wasn’t just the buckets, it was his overall performance that made him the big man on the court. To go with the points, Aluma managed 8 rebounds, a steal, and 4 blocks.
At the end of the game Aluma being his normal humble self, credited Justyn Mutts. Justyn played a respectable game, with 8 points, and 6 boards, but Aluma was “the man” this evening.
The remainder of the Hokie bench also contributed with every player appearing on the court for significant time, and no one walked off the hardwood without points.
The game wasn’t always in the Hokies’ back pockets, though. They did what they had to do in the first half, but headed to the locker room at the break with a 24 - 29 deficit, and no real offense happening. Both teams were playing stout defense, and quality shot opportunities were just not happening. The Hokies did manage to keep it close the entire time, and the Hoos never managed a good run of any consistency.
“I haven’t been to a louder place this year.”— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) February 15, 2022
ESPN’s Dan Shulman pic.twitter.com/HOtFTe1BLu
Tech found a bit of footing and the sights from the field in the second half, though. Tech started trading buckets with UVA in the beginning of the half, but the big difference was that slowly and steadily the Hokies were nibbling away at that five-point lead. There was even a 50 second period between 18min and 17min where Tech managed three blocks (2 by Aluma and 1 by Mutts) and one foul shot that put the Hokies within a point. Tech went ahead at the 16:57 mark with an emphatic Keve Aluma dunk as he muscled up in the paint. With the score 32 - 31 Tech the Hokies would never trail again. The Hoos managed to tie the game several times in the next 11 minutes, but every time the Hoos would tie it up, the Hokies would go on a scoring burst accompanied by some stout defense keeping the Hoos from draining it.
The last really scary tie (44 - 44) happened with 6:53 left on the clock and that heart sinking feeling that old habits might be returning. Two free throws by Aluma and a 3-pointer by Nahiem Alleyne re-ignited the flame, and the Hoos never got closer than that the remainder of the game.
This was a quality win, if only because it’s UVA, and beating the Hoos is always satisfying. UVA is not running hot straight and normal this season, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. They aren’t ranked and are dancing in the middle of the NIT zone with us. Well, maybe this can be a turning point where the Hokies manage to get on the plus side of the NCAA Tournament Bubble. It’s not going to be easy, but the remainder of the schedule is winnable and if they do win out, I can’t see why they wouldn’t get a seeding somewhere in the Beeg Shew... There is still much work to be done though.
Here’s who is left in front of Virginia Tech before the ACC Tournament which runs from March 8 - March 12 in Brooklyn, NY of all places:
North Carolina at Cassell Coliseum Feb 19 (Sat) 4 PM ET
Georgia Tech in Atlanta Feb 23 (Wed) 9 PM ET
Miami in Coral Gables Feb 26 (Sat) 3 PM ET
Louisville at Cassell Coliseum Mar 1 (Tue) 9 PM ET
Clemson at Clemson Mar 5 (Sat) 2 PM ET
Each of the games is winnable, and the two on the really hot sheet will be North Carolina on Saturday, and Miami on the 26th. Those are two teams that this particular Hokie squad would like to exact some vengeance upon.
Let’s smile at this evening’s win, though.