Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Outside of those inside the Virginia Tech locker room, most people didn't expect that the Hokies would be able to keep it close against No. 3 Michigan State let alone pull off an upset. Instead, the Hokies had one of the biggest upsets of the season in store in Maui.
Virginia Tech stunned Preseason No. 1 and current No. 3 Michigan State 71-66 to improve to 6-0 on the season while the Spartans fell to 3-2. With the win, the Hokies advance to tomorrow's Maui Invitational semifinals where they will face Dayton while the Spartans will face Georgia in the consolation bracket.
The Hokies once again brought great work ethic and intensity to the floor while also having some great execution on both ends of the floor. Virginia Tech's three-point shooting was strong as usual as the Hokies went 10-21 (47.6%) from deep while Michigan State was 8-23 (34.8%). The Hokies also got to the free-throw line a lot, and were relatively effective going 15-22 while Michigan State was 10-14.
The Hokies did an excellent job of protecting the basketball with 8 steals only 9 turnovers (including only 3 in the second half) while Michigan State had 16 turnovers and only 3 steals. More importantly, Tech took advantage of those turnovers with a 20-4 advantage in points off turnovers, something that proved to be decisive in the final outcome.
Ball movement was also strong for the Hokies with 16 assists on their 23 made buckets, an impressive ratio. If there was one area where the Hokies struggled, it was on the glass with Michigan State having a 43-27 rebounding advantage including 17-8 on offensive rebounds, but their 17-6 second chance points advantage wasn't a big enough difference in this game.
Throughout the game and especially down the stretch, Landers Nolley stepped up with a pair of big buckets inside the final 2 minutes to keep the Spartans at arm's length. Overall, the redshirt freshman was a star once again with 22 points on 5-12 shooting including 4-6 from three and 8-8 from the free-throw line while also having 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Nolley was an absolute star today and looked like a player who everyone in the nation will have to know about.
Wabissa Bede also stepped up down the stretch with a pair of important defensive rebounds along with a couple free throws that helped make it a two-possession game in the closing seconds. Overall, Bede didn't have his most efficient day with 11 points on 3-10 shooting and 5-9 from the free-throw line, but he also had 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers. Most importantly, Bede provided leadership and made a couple hustle plays to help close the deal on a massive upset.
P.J. Horne had a big game in the post finishing with 12 points and 7 rebounds (4 offensive) on 5-6 shooting including 2-2 from three-point range. Hunter Cattoor made a couple big hustle plays early and was relatively steady throughout with 10 points on 4-8 shooting including 2-5 from 3 along with 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and no turnovers.
Nahiem Alleyne was the fifth Hokie in double figures with 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist in what was another solid performance for Alleyne. Isaiah Wilkins, Jalen Cone, and John Ojiako each had 2 points with Cone and Ojiako each having 2 rebounds while Tyrece Radford was held scoreless but had a rebound and a steal.
Overall, this was a statement made by the Hokies that they are significantly ahead of schedule and ready to push expectations in the first season of the Mike Young era. This is not only a team full of great, young talent, but also an extremely well-coached team that was well-prepared not only for the opponent, but for a nailbitter of a game against a great team. More incredibly, the Hokies pulled this upset while playing 6 true and redshirt freshmen, and 0 seniors.
At this point, the Hokies not only can have confidence of reaching the NIT, but also start dreaming about making a run at a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament bid.
Of course, most believed that the Hokies were bound for the bottom of the ACC this season with a rotation full of freshmen and lacking seniors.
Instead, those inside the Virginia Tech men's basketball program are not only believing that they can achieve things no one expects, but are also going and doing it.