BLACKSBURG – Led by Keve Aluma’s career-high 26 points, the No. 24 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team knocked off Miami (Fla.) 80-78 in a nail-biter Tuesday night at Carilion Clinic Court at Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies (8-1, 2-0 ACC) improved to 18-24 overall against the Hurricanes (4-3, 0-2 ACC), 10-8 at home and a perfect 5-0 when ranked. Including his time at Wofford, Mike Young is 2-3 all-time versus Miami’s Head Coach Jim Larrañaga.
Tech’s offense was dominated by Aluma’s 26 points and four assists. He hit 9 of 16 from the floor and a consistent 7 of 10 from behind the free-throw line. Justyn Mutts scored a season-high 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds, just short of his first double-double of the season. Tyrece Radford and Jalen Cone dropped in 13 and 12 points respectively.
On defense, the Hokies forced 19 turnovers, the most against an ACC opponent in the Mike Young era, topping the previous high of 18 at Wake Forest on Jan. 14, 2020. The Hokies picked up a season-high 12 steals with seven players contributing.
While the Hurricanes outshot the Hokies 53.6% to 46.8%, Tech made up the difference by holding them to only 10 free-throw chances the entire game.
The Hokies and Hurricanes each got off to a slow start offensively due to strong defensive play from both sides. Tech caught fire when Cone and Radford had back-to-back fast break layups to start a 12-point run that gave Tech a 42-33 halftime lead. Aluma with 19 points and Mutts with 10 points and seven rebounds carried the Hokies in the first half.
Tech came out hot in the second half eventually taking their biggest lead of the game, 58-41, at the 15:12 mark. The Canes chipped away at the score until an eight-point run and a seven-point run cut the Hokies lead to two with less than 40 seconds left in the game.
Two good free throws by Nahiem Alleyne put the Hokies ahead 79-75, but Miami answered with a 3 to cut the lead to one. Wabissa Bede hit a free throw with 26 seconds left and then strong defensive play preserved the thrilling 80-78 victory.
Virginia Tech’s 12 steals gave the Hokies 21 in their last two games (nine vs. Longwood, Dec. 21).
Tech was able to outscore Miami 15-8 on fast-break points.
Tech shot 47.5 percent for the game (29-for-61), 39.1 percent from 3-point range (9-for-23) and 61.9 percent from the free-throw line (13-for-21).
The Hokies outscored Miami on second-chance points 11-5.