At the halfway point of the 2023-24 ACC men's basketball schedule, Saturday's game at Miami between Virginia Tech and the Hurricanes was a huge one for both teams in terms of getting into the NCAA Tournament next month. For the second time this season, Miami used a big second half to hand Mike Young's team a devastating loss.
Virginia Tech was up 10 points with under 12 minutes remaining, but the Hurricanes turned up the defense and started hitting shots to rally for the victory. After falling behind 60-59 after a 13-2 Miami run, the Hokies responded with a 6-0 run for a 65-60 lead, but turnovers missed free throws and not being able to get stops allowed the hosts to finish the game on 22-9 run over the last five minutes.
Here are some takeaways after Virginia Tech fell to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in the conference in what was a huge Quad 1 opportunity on the road.
* Virginia Tech entered the game as the second-best free throw shooting team in the country and it was at the free throw line where they struggled. The Hokies went just 7-for-14 from stripe and Sean Pedulla made just two of his seven attempts. For a team that needs road wins to get back on the bubble, 50% from the line will not get it done.
* Over the last three games, the Hokies did a much better job taking care of the basketball, but that ended up being the difference in the second half. Pedulla had seven of the 11 Virginia Tech turnovers and it seemed like every time the ball was turned over, Miami made them pay. On the flip side, the Hurricanes turned the ball over nine times in the first half as Tech built a 36-25 halftime lead, but they turned it over just twice over the final 20 minutes.
* Duke did a nice job of taking the 3-point line away from Pedulla, Hunter Cattoor, and Tyler Nickel on Monday night and the 3-point attempts they did shoot were tough looks. Against Miami, the Hokies were just 11-for-30 from behind the arc with five of the makes coming from Cattoor.
* Matthew Cleveland returned to the lineup for Miami and he made an immediate impact scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. The Hurricanes had six players in double figures, led by Kyshawn George and Norchad Omier leading the way with 16. Nijel Pack and Bensley Joseph each added 14. Miami went 27-for-29 from the free throw line and that was a big reason why they scored 56 second-half points.
* Pedulla, who went over 1,000 career points in the game, led Virginia Tech with 21 points and five assists and Cattoor added 19. Lynn Kidd did all of his damage in the first half where he had all six of his points and 10 of his 11 rebounds. Robbie Beran and Tyler Nickel also finished in double figures with 10 points apiece.
Virginia Tech now gets a week off and won't return to the court until next Saturday at Notre Dame.