Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
For the first time since mid-December, Virginia Tech seems to have found a rhythm.
Seeking its fourth consecutive victory, the Hokies (13-10, 5-7 ACC) have an identity, have put it all together, and have given themselves a chance to climb back into the NCAA Tournament sweepstakes.
Sure, it seems impossible. But based on the maroon and orange’s NET ranking, the opportunities ahead, and the cohesive coming on of a team that had been vastly underachieving, Virginia Tech has a shot.
Now can they take advantage? We’ll continue to get an answer in Blacksburg this evening. The lowly Pittsburgh Panthers (8-15, 3-9 ACC) make the trip to the commonwealth to face the Hokies for the second time in a span of three days.
Game Day Information
When: Monday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
TV: ACC Network
PXP: Jay Alter
Analyst: Malcolm Huckaby
Series History: Virginia Tech Leads 10-8
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech Won 76-71 on Feb. 5, 2022
Line: Virginia Tech -13
Last Time Out
Well, well, well, what do we have here?
It’s bizarre enough that these two teams have to square off against each other twice in a span of 72 hours. To do so after how Saturday’s game fared, seems to be an encore for two of the more contrasting halves that you will ever see on the hardwood.
Taking a 27-point lead into the locker room at the intermission, Virginia Tech seemed poised to secure a dominating road win. Shooting 77% from three and 75% from the field in the first 20 minutes certainly can make you believe. But the Panthers were having none of it at the Petersen Events Center.
Surging out of the gates, Pitt just continued to close the gap. 18 points. Then 12 points. Then all the way down to single digits with less than eight minutes to play.
Once a near-30 point advantage, was suddenly down to three with under a minute remaining. If it hadn’t been for Storm Murphy’s clutch shooting both from the outside and the charity stripe, the Hokies may have been leaving Pittsburgh with one of the more demoralizing defeats in program history.
All in all, when the final horn sounded, Virginia Tech was victorious. In turn, a much-needed win for a team that refuses to believe that its NCAA Tournament hopes have fallen by the wayside.
A season-high 20 points from Murphy led the way for the maroon and orange. Justyn Mutts’ 16 offered a nice presence down low for Virginia Tech.
Sure, the execution wasn’t there down the stretch. But a masterful first half proved to be just enough for the Hokies to escape with a 76-71 victory up in the Steel City.
There should be little surprises tonight when it comes to the Panthers. Who continue to try to get something going under fourth-year head coach Jeff Capel.
A once premier program in all of college basketball has mightily fallen off, and it just can’t seem to put the pieces together.
As Hokie fans saw on Saturday, there’s some talented personnel that spreads the floor for Pitt. Leading-scorer and rebounder John Hugley (14.7 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game) had just two points on Saturday. But with his talent, athleticism and frame down low, don’t count on him repeating a disappointing affair.
Guards Jamarius Burton (13.5 points per game) and Femi Odukale (12.6 points per game) provide a nice outside presence for the Panthers, and that showed just two days ago. The dynamic duo put up a combined 46 points and were unstoppable from deep down the stretch.
Pitt clearly has nice pieces. Ultimately, there’s just some sort of disconnect that continues to compromise the Panthers’ chances of returning to the level they once were.
We saw what happened on Saturday evening.
Virginia Tech showed untapped potential early on in the first half of play. Down the stretch, it looked flat and out of sorts.
A win is certainly a win. But you’ve got to think Mike Young’s team will be hungry to prove it was the squad that came out on fire.
The Hokies will come out hot and take down Pitt for the second time in three days with a dominating victory on their homecourt.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 83, Pittsburgh 69