After defeating then-No. 8 Virginia 65-51 on Saturday, Virginia Tech coach Mike Young tried to temper expectations.
“It’s significant now,” Young said of the victory, the Hokies’ fourth over a ranked team this season. “But let’s hit the brake. It’s late January. They’re not putting a crown on anybody’s head in January. We’ve got a bunch of head-knockers to go. … Great win for us. We played a really good ball game against a really, really good team, but let’s hang on. We’ve got a lot more to look forward to, we hope.”
For now, the No. 16 Hokies (13-3, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are looking forward to Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh (8-5, 4-4). Virginia Tech is 2-2 on the road this season, with losses at Louisville and Syracuse in ACC play.
Keve Aluma led the Hokies against Virginia, scoring a career-high 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting. He added 10 rebounds to tally his fourth double-double of the season.
Virginia Tech rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to snap a four-game skid against the rival Cavaliers. The Hokies outscored the visitors 21-4 to end the game, including a 19-0 run in which Aluma scored seven points and Hunter Cattoor made two 3-pointers. Catoor finished with 15 points as the Hokies became just the third team to shoot 50 percent (22 of 44) against Virginia this season.
“I think we had all seen that no one thought we were going to win this game,” Aluma said. “I like it when it’s like that. I like it when people don’t think we’re going to win. That just fuels us even more.”
The Hokies also were strong on the other end of the court, holding the ACC’s best-shooting team to 36.5 percent (19 of 52).
“That performance defensively was, needless to say, exceptional,” Young said. “But it’s not a surprise. I can assure you of that.”
Pittsburgh is coming off an 84-58 loss to visiting Notre Dame. It was the largest margin of defeat this season for the Panthers, who have dropped three games in a row.
Justin Champagnie led Pitt with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Xavier Johnson, who entered the game atop the conference with 6.3 assists per game, had just five points and three assists before fouling out with 11:28 remaining.
“This is not about X, this is about us,” Panthers coach Jeff Capel said when asked about Johnson’s performance. “We were bad. We were bad collectively as a group. One person wasn’t bad. Everyone on our team was bad. And so, it’s correcting everyone, not just X. He was not the only one out of control, we were out of control. This is not about one guy.”
Pitt had a 20-19 lead after 8 1/2 minutes, but Notre Dame cruised from there.
“We were just trying to find five guys to play hard. So it didn’t matter whether it was big, small, or whatever,” Capel said. “We’ve got to figure out who our best guys are that are going to be able to do what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance to win.”
–Field Level Media