In their final night in Bubbleville, the Hokies defeated the University of South Florida Bulls 76-58. Mike Young rolled out his third different opening lineup of the season, speaking to the depth and rotations of this year’s team. We all know what happened last night against formerly #3 Villanova, including the parallels to VT’s victory over then #3 Michigan State almost exactly a year ago. This time, the Hokies managed to avoid the hangover loss and exit Bubbleville with a bubble in the loss column, and likely some top 25 votes in the next polls.
After a back-and-forth start, Virginia Tech poured on a 12-2 run, led by triples from Radford and Cattoor. In fact, the early first half was a true team effort with points from nearly every player that logged minutes. Of note, was a possession that included three offensive boards, ending in a 2-point jumper. Seeing that level of rebounding, especially against the size of the Bulls roster, is a refreshing change of pace from last year. While the Bulls managed to tighten the game up briefly, the Hokies impressive ball movement and balanced attack produced another big 10-1 run. Credit must be given to Tryrece Radford, who managed to rack up 9 first-half points on 4/4 shooting, after logging 44 hard minutes in last night’s overtime thriller. The defense was stifling to end the half, producing a barrage of turnovers, shot clock violations, errant passes and airballs. Keve Aluma continued his hot hand, nailing a half-ending three to put the Hokies up 36-23 at the break.
The Hokies picked up right where they left off, with Radford starting the half with an athletic and-1. The Bulls struggled from the field, continuing an 0-12 drought, eventually notching a bucket around 3 minutes into the second half. Even with a scoreless streak mid-way through the half, Mike Young’s team also controlled the rest of the game. Whether it was Mutts on the boards, Radford scoring, Diarra driving, Bede’s leadership, free throws from Cattoor, Pemsl’s two-way play, Aluma dominating inside and out, or solid bench play, you could point to dozens of reasons this team avoided the hangover loss against USF. In what has become a theme this season, VT played 10 deep, including heavy minutes from 9 players. That is also without two serious contributors from last year in big man John Ojiako and sharpshooter Jalen Cone, both set to return soon.
In the end, Virginia Tech defeated the USF Bulls 76-58. Star Tyrece Radford led the team with 21 points on 9/12 shooting. Aluma, Cattoor, Diarra and Pemsl added double-digit points each. Bede picked 2 steals, and Mutts cleaned up a team-high 8 boards. The Hokies look forward to returning home to play VMI on Thursday.