On paper, tonight’s 83-72 loss to Pitt makes no sense.
A week ago, Virginia Tech beat Notre Dame handily on the road. Saturday, that same Notre Dame team went to Pittsburgh and beat Pitt by 26 while the Hokies upset No. 8 Virginia. On paper, the game shouldn’t have been close.
On the court, however, Pitt executed a strategy that beat the Hokies like a drum in the second half, and it showed that when Virginia Tech is having a tough night from outside the 3-point arc, you can disrupt their offense and frustrate the heck out of them.
I know they certainly frustrated the heck out of me.
Usually, teams try to beat up on Keve Aluma and try to get him out of his game, and given his superlative 29-point game against Virginia Saturday, I expected the paint at Pitt to be more like Octagon. Aluma didn’t seem bothered, in part thanks to the play of Justyn Mutts, as he proved to be a strong additional presence under the rim so when Pitt doubled Aluma, Mutts picked up the scoring.
It was 31-31 at halftime, but the scoresheet showed a glaring problem that would be even more evident in the second half: Only 3 players scored for the Hokies, with Mutts and Aluma combining for 22 of the 31 points. The other 9 were from Jalen Cone on 3 3-pointers, and while nice, they were a bit of a mixed bag.
The first Cone 3-pointer was so far off the mark, it bounced off the square and banked in, while the other two were where Cone needs to consistently get to. He went straight up, launched a shot where there was enough spacing that he had a clear look at the basket, and the result looked like the Jalen Cone of old. Unfortunately, he shot several more that looked like the more recent Cone, hurrying his shot, firing them up on the move, and shooting even with heavy defensive pressure on him. He missed those other six shots and didn’t score in the second half.
The rest of the backcourt had an even rougher night. The shots weren’t dropping, they didn’t compensate by driving to the basket and trying to draw fouls, and at times looked lost. Wabissa Bede was 0-5. Nahlem Alleyne was 1-8. Hunter Cattoor was 4 of 10. The entire team was 9 for 30 from the 3-point arc.