In a season of high and lows under first year head coach Mike Young, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball season ended in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Hokies lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 78-56. Tech struggled to hit shots from the field in front of a significant home-court advantage in favor of UNC.
“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we need to and expect to, which ultimately affects your defense,” said Young. “I’m disappointed but there will be better days ahead for the Hokies, I can assure you that.”
The Hokies started off cold from the field, hitting just one of their first nine shots; the Tar Heels went on an early 10-0 run to extend the lead to 10-4 midway through the first half.
After North Carolina increased its lead to 10 points, back-to-back threes by PJ Horne and Jalen Cone cut the early deficit to 19-13 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the half. Several well-timed three pointers kept the Hokies close, with the team shooting 6-18 in the first 10 minutes of action.
The Hokies got within one point when a Hunter Cattoor 3-pointer cut UNC’s lead to 21-18. However, the Tar Heels went on a run of their own and extended the lead back to 28-18. North Carolina headed into halftime leading 32-26 in front of a pro-UNC crowd in Greensboro.
Despite a solid finish to the first half by the Hokies, North Carolina went on a 7-0 scoring run to begin the second half. Just under five minutes into the second half, the Tar Heels led 40-30 behind a balanced scoring attack from their starters.
Freshman point guard Cole Anthony set the tempo well for UNC and recorded a balanced stat line of 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Anthony missed the first matchup this season between Virginia Tech and North Carolina, in which the Hokies won in double overtime.
“Cole gives them an opportunity to push the ball at a different pace than we encountered in our first meeting,” Young said.
North Carolina outscored Virginia Tech 21-12 through the first 10 minutes of the second half; this created an insurmountable deficit for the Hokies to overcome.
Cattoor provided a consistent spark off the bench, shooting 4-10 from 3-point range and finishing with 14 points. The Hokies went 6-18 from 3-point range in the first half but struggled as a team in the second, shooting 4-18 from distance.
Two straight 3-pointers by UNC’s Brandon Robinson took the air out of Tech’s comeback efforts, extending the Tar Heels’ lead to 63-43 with seven minutes remaining in regulation. North Carolina went on a 13-0 run late in the second half that essentially sealed the game for head coach Roy Williams and his squad. Robinson finished the contest with 17 points off of 5-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
“When he hit those shots, he definitely got the arena into it,” Cone said. “He gave their team a lot of energy and momentum.
The Tar Heels controlled their lead throughout the remainder of the game and went on to defeat the Hokies 78-56. Garrison Brooks was dominant for North Carolina inside the paint, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Tyrece Radford struggled for Tech, scoring only four points off of 2-6 shooting; Landers Nolley II created quality shot attempts as he scored 10 points, but the freshman shot 4-11 from the field.
For the Hokies, this ends a season full of ups-and-down under Young in his first season as head coach. Highlighted by a 6-0 start to the season and a major upset victory over Michigan State, Tech’s season lacked consistency down the stretch in ACC competition.
“We had some great moments and some not so great moments,” Young said. “We’re off and running now; things are in place.”
With six freshmen on the roster, the Hokies will look to build off of the experience this season provided and move forward as a program.