The Virginia Tech Hokies jumped out to a 7-0 lead early against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Thursday and never looked back, en route to an 87-80 victory.
The Hokies cruised through the first half, going up by as many as 16 points before the Irish cut the lead to 42-31 before halftime.
Tech opened the second half strong, consistently maintaining a double-digit lead until Cormac Ryan made two free throws with 10:21 remaining in the game to cut the score to 58-50.
Virginia Tech’s defense struggled to defend Notre Dame in the second half, as at one point, the Fighting Irish made eight consecutive shots from the field. Fortunately for the Hokies, the offense always seemed to have an answer. Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts were outstanding for the Hokies in the second half, while others delivered when their number was called.
For one stretch in the second half, each team exchanged baskets. On a typical night, the Fighting Irish would’ve shot well enough to come back and win, but Tech’s offense always had an answer.
Fans were nervous late, as Virginia Tech maintained a five-point lead with under three minutes remaining when guard Storm Murphy drained a 3-pointer to give Tech some breathing room. After another defensive stop, it appeared that Murphy was about to allow the shot clock to expire before putting up another 3-pointer, and it was good. Suddenly, Tech’s lead was back up by 11 points with 1:49 left in the game.
In the final stretch, the Hokies hit their free throws and pulled away for a win in a game they never trailed.
This is another quality win for Mike Young’s bunch. Is it enough to earn an NCAA Tournament bid? Joe Lunardi still has the Hokies as one of the first four out.
The Hokies are back in the ACC Tournament semifinals for the first time since the Seth Greenberg era. Virginia Tech will likely play North Carolina, who is up 33-13 over Virginia at halftime. Tech has struggled against UNC in recent years, especially in the ACC Tournament.
Aluma led the Hokies with 20 points, while Murphy scored 16 and Sean Pedulla chipped in with 13 points. Nahiem Alleyned scored 12 for the Hokies, while Mutts finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Virginia Tech shot 57% from the field.