Virginia Tech Basketball: Hokies take down No. 21 Clemson with an offensive explosion

After losing two straight ACC games on the road, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team returned to Cassell Coliseum and beat Clemson with an offensive explosion Wednesday night.

Jan 10, 2024; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Chase Hunter (1) and Virginia Tech
Jan 10, 2024; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Chase Hunter (1) and Virginia Tech / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
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87. 447. Final. 72. 432. ACC

Two struggling ACC teams met Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum when the Virginia Tech men's basketball team hosted Clemson. Both teams entered the contest losing their last two conference games, which meant something had to give.

Virginia Tech played their best first half of the season, putting up 53 points and taking a nine-point lead into the locker room, but they suffered a key injury when Hunter Cattoor was kicked in the face inadvertently while diving for a loose ball and did not return. The Tigers failed to take advantage.

Sean Pedulla and Tyler Nickel each had a career-night as the Hokies held off a second half charge for No. 21 Clemson to pick up a key Quad 1 victory. Here are three takeaways from the 15-point win.

1. Sean Pedulla had a career night

Jan 6, 2024; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Sean Pedulla (3) and Florida
Jan 6, 2024; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Sean Pedulla (3) and Florida / Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

If there was any question as to how Pedulla's ankle was, it was answered against Clemson. The junior scored a career-high 32 points, dished out seven assists, and grabbed four rebounds. In the second half, he had 13 points, including two 3-pointers and a three-point play. He knocked down some free throws to keep the Tigers at bay, but it was a nice game following his Florida State effort four days earlier.

2. Tyler Nickel was huge off the bench

Tyler Nickel
American v Virginia Tech / Ryan Hunt/GettyImages

Losing Cattoor was a big loss, but Nickel had a career night coming off the bench with 24 points, which included five 3-pointers. With Virginia Tech holding a 72-66 lead, he scored eight straight points for the Hokies, including a huge 3-pointer in transition off an MJ Collins pass. He was also big in the first half with four 3-pointers as the Hokies put up 53 points on the 21st-ranked team in the country.

3. Hokies get stops in the second half

Jan 6, 2024; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Mike Young before the start
Jan 6, 2024; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Mike Young before the start / Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

No Cattoor, who was good on the defensive end until he got hurt, in the second half was going to be a true test of how the Hokies' defense would be, an improvement Young has been looking for this season. They held Clemson to 28 points, kept PJ Hall in check and when the Tigers closed the gap to six points, Virginia Tech turned up the defense, got some turnovers, and forced Clemson to one shot on several possessions. Young had to be happy with the defensive effort over the last 20 minutes.

Robbie Beran and Mekhi Long (seven rebounds) each had eight points for the Hokies and Lynn Kidd hd six and just two rebounds. Virginia Tech looks to build off of the win on Saturday night when they welcome Miami into Cassell Coliseum for a 7 o'clock tipoff.

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