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Virginia Tech basketball: Hokies blow critical game vs. Miami, 82-74

This was Virginia Tech’s toughest loss of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Miami (FL) Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies squandered a major opportunity to improve their NCAA Tournament resume on Saturday with an 82-74 loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Tech fell to 13-9 on the season and 5-6 in ACC play after Saturday’s loss — the second in a row for the Hokies after a three-game winning streak. Monday’s game vs. Duke and Saturday’s contest at Miami would’ve both been Quad 1 wins for the Hokies.

Miami jumped out to a six-point lead in the first half, but the Hurricanes went cold from the field, missing 12 shots in a row from the field, allowing the Hokies to build a 35-25 lead.

Miami’s Matthew Cleveland made a 3-pointer with 8:23 remaining to give Miami a 23-21 lead. Then, the ‘Canes would miss its next 12 shots and would score only three points for the remainder of the first half — all from the free-throw line. That’s right, Miami scored three points over the final eight minutes.

The Hokies would carry that momentum into the second half. While the Hurricanes shot the ball much better, Tech’s offense matched them. The Hokies would maintain anywhere from a 7-10 point lead for the first eight minutes of the second half, but Miami began to turn things around.

Virginia Tech guard Tyler Nickel made a jumper with 8:47 remaining to pull VT ahead 59-51. Miami would score nine consecutive points over the next two minutes to take a one-point lead. The Hokies would punch right back, with Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla scoring six straight points to put Tech back up 65-60.

The Hurricanes had an answer, scoring six in a row to take the lead. Cattoor answered, giving the Hokies a 67-66 lead with 3:29 left. Norchad Omier put the Canes back on top and they’d never look back. The Hurricanes led by eight points with 1:07 remaining when Tech finally made a basket from the field. The Hokies had gone almost three minutes without a basket from the field while struggling to slow down Miami, and that final drought proved too much to overcome for VT.

This Virginia Tech team has a small margin for error. When things go right, they can defeat most teams, but almost everything needs to go right. On Saturday, some things didn’t go Tech’s way, and they couldn’t overcome a talented team on the road.

Pedulla led the Hokies with 21 points, with Cattoor right behind him with 19. Robbie Beran and Tyler Nickel each contributed 10 points. Lynn Kidd led the Hokies with 11 rebounds but scored just six points. Tech again failed to deliver inside the paint, relying too often on jump shots. The Hokies were 11 of 30 (36.7%) from beyond the arc and 48% from the field. One of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, the Hokies struggled there on Saturday, missing seven of their 14 attempts.

Omier and talented freshman Kyshawn George each scored 16 for Miami, while Cleveland scored 15 and led everyone with 13 rebounds.

The Hokies now have a week off before playing at Notre Dame next Saturday. The opportunities for Quad 1 wins are shrinking. North Carolina represents an opportunity but the Heels are arguably the country’s hottest team right now.