No. 16 Va. Tech hopes to regain form vs. Miami

NCAA Basketball

Just four days after Virginia Tech’s biggest win of the season at home against Virginia, the Hokies’ typically stout defense vanished during a road loss at Pittsburgh.

The No. 16 Hokies (13-4, 7-3 ACC) will next try to avoid suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season when they visit Coral Gables, Fla., to take on the Miami Hurricanes (7-10, 3-9 ACC) on Saturday afternoon.

Virginia Tech allowed Pitt to shoot 57.7 percent from the field in the second half and 50.0 percent overall. Panthers guard Xavier Johnson torched Virginia Tech for 32 points on 11-for-17 shooting.

“As good as we’ve been defensively, to allow 83 points to a Pittsburgh team that has struggled to score at times …,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said. “We’ve been so good defensively. We were not that team tonight, and that’s disappointing.”

It’s been a tough season for the oft-short-handed Hurricanes, but they are coming off one of their high points — a 77-75 home victory over Duke on Monday night which snapped a four-game skid.

Miami was led by Stony Brook transfer Elijah Olaniyi’s 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Isaiah Wong, the Canes’ leading scorer (17.3 points per game), and Anthony Walker each had 16 points.

“I was born to play on the big stage,” Olaniyi said. “When the lights go on, I’ve got to step up. One win can change the direction of your season.”

The Hurricanes have played the majority of their season without preseason All-ACC guard Chris Lykes and dealt with numerous other injuries in addition to the dismissal of Matt Cross.

Similarly, Virginia Tech played its third consecutive game without sophomore guard Tyrece Radford, who was suspended indefinitely on Jan. 25.

However, Keve Aluma has had some of his best performances of late for Virginia Tech.

Against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Aluma finished with a career-high 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Aluma, who also collected 10 rebounds, was coming off a 29-point outing in a win over Virginia and leads the Hokies this season in both scoring (15.7 points per game) and rebounding (7.7 per game).

Justyn Mutts had 17 points and Hunter Cattoor had 12 off the bench for the Hokies.

But it still wasn’t enough to hold off the Panthers, who scored 52 points in the second half.

“Lesson learned that you better pack that lunch pail every night,” Young said. “They were hungrier. They were more desperate.”

The Canes figure to be another “desperate” team trying to salvage what’s left of their so far disappointing season.

Canes coach Jim Larranaga said after Monday’s game that he had a good feeling about his players’ vibe coming off a team meeting held the previous day.

“It was apparent to me there was a lot of team spirit at the meeting, the most there’s been,” Larranaga said. “I liked that, thought that was a good sign. Everybody was in a good mood and smiling and that’s difficult after a road loss.”

–Field Level Media

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