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Upset-minded Va. Tech meets No. 13 Miami

Feb 18, 2023; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Nijel Pack (24) reacts after dunking the basketball against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the second half at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

With the same overall record at this stage as last season, it looks like Virginia Tech will need another deep run in the ACC Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament.

It might be too late for the Hokies to secure an at-large NCAA bid despite two resume-boosting victories this month that came when they knocked off ACC leaders Virginia and Pitt.

Tuesday night at home, Virginia Tech (16-11, 6-10 ACC) gets a chance for another when it takes on No. 13 Miami (22-5, 13-4) at Blacksburg, Va.

The Hokies are coming off a 79-72 win at home over Pitt on Saturday as they limited the Panthers to 3-of-18 shooting (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.

Long-range defense was a point of emphasis for Virginia Tech after it got burned for 11 3-pointers in a 77-70 loss Wednesday at Georgia Tech.

“Our transition defense was on point,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said after the Pitt win. “Now let’s come back after two days of practice and do it against Miami.”

Pitt coach Jeff Capel twice cited Virginia Tech’s “physicality” as a key to disrupting his team’s rhythm.

“Just getting there and having a hand up isn’t enough,” Virginia Tech’s Sean Pedulla said. “(It’s) getting to the body and making sure they don’t even take the shot.”

At the other end of the floor, the Hokies’ frontcourt thrived as Grant Basile scored 22 points and Mylyjael Poteat came off the bench to score 15, which is his high in a Virginia Tech uniform after transferring from Rice.

The Hokies have shown a knack at home for beating streaking ACC teams. The Pitt win halted the Panthers’ six-game run; the victory over Virginia stopped the Cavaliers’ seven-game roll.

Now comes the visit from Miami, riding a six-game streak, which started Jan. 31 with a 92-83 home victory over Virginia Tech.

The Hokies had a five-point lead in that game with 8:20 remaining, but that’s when the Hurricanes’ Nijel Pack went off, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring all 17 of his points in a decisive five-minute span.

Miami is coming off a 96-87 home victory Saturday over Wake Forest as Isaiah Wong scored 27 points and Pack added a career-high 24 points.

The Hurricanes took the lead for good late in the first half when Wong scored 13 straight in a span of less than two minutes, turning a three-point deficit into a 10-point advantage.

“It was kind of a heat check at one point,” Wong said. “I scored my first one and it kept on rolling. I kept on shooting, and it kept on going in.”

In improving to 15-0 at home, the Hurricanes forced 19 turnovers, including 12 from Demon Deacons point guard Tyree Appleby. Miami also matched its most points in regulation in an ACC game since it joined the league in 2004-05.

Leading the ACC in points per game at 79.7 and ranking No. 7 in the nation in points per possession, the Hurricanes’ offense is in high gear. Against Wake Forest, they shot 58.7 percent from the floor and made 8 of 16 3-point tries, with Pack going 4 of 8.

Miami leads the series with Virginia Tech 26-20. Last year at Blacksburg, Charlie Moore banked in a 3-point shot from halfcourt to lift the Hurricanes to a 78-75 win. But the Hokies got their revenge a month later with a 71-70 victory at Miami.

–Field Level Media

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