By Marty Gordon
Get your popcorn ready as the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team has won five straight games and is auditioning for March Madness after a 71-59 defeat of Syracuse Saturday afternoon in Cassell Coliseum.
Coach Mike Young’s pre-game ritual includes sitting on the Hokie bench with a box of popcorn watching his team warm up. Thus, his optimism remains high across the board when it comes to the team’s success. Also, his snack is lightly salted with a touch of butter.
Fans might find that taste to their liking as the basketball team tries to continue this run. Young has said Virginia Tech’s popcorn is the best but admits Boston College has the best road popcorn. It’s something, he said, he has been doing since his time at Wofford (for over 20 years) but the ritual has drawn more attention only since he moved to Tech.
The university even used his pre-game ritual as a fundraising tool. Those who gave at least $25 this past month to the Hokie Club received a special custom Mike Young popcorn bucket.
But we regress for the moment to what is really happening in Blacksburg. On the court, the Hokies trailed only once in Saturday’s game.
The five straight wins is Tech’s longest winning streak in ACC play since the Hokies won five in a row to end the 2015-2016 season. The streak also moved the Hokies to 4-0 in February.
Mutts on fire
Justyn Mutts recorded the second triple-double in program history Saturday night. He scored 12 points, claimed 14 rebounds, and dished out 11 assists, including eight in the first half.
The Hokies (15-10, 7-7) were led by Keve Aluma, who had 20 points, two steals, and two blocks, and by Hunter Cattoor, who tacked on 14 points, seven rebounds, and two steals.
Mutts and Aluma have both achieved the 1,000-point milestone this season, and they were both honored before Saturday’s game. This marked the first time a pair of teammates accomplished that feat at the Division I level since Mississippi State’s Aric Holman and Lamar Peters did it in 2019.
Moreover, Storm Murphy has now eclipsed the 1,500 scoring mark in his career.
But there is so much to why the Hokies are putting together this streak.
From behind the Arc
Tech ranks first in the conference in 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made per game. Saturday, the Hokies shot 37 percent for the game with Darrius Maddox leading the team with a 3-for-5 day.
Aluma from behind the stripe
Aluma is making things even harder for opposing defenses as he has proved to be deadly from three-point range this season. At Wofford, before transferring to Tech, he had shot only two treys. Now, he is pushing 20-plus and, left open, he has knocked down the 3-pointer consistently.
Outstanding bench play
Through 24 games, the team’s reserves are averaging 15.8 points per game.
Lady Hokies rolling
Sunday, the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team held No.-23 North Carolina to just 32.8 percent shooting from the field on the way to a 66-61 win over the Tar Heels.
The Hokies (19-6, 11-3) had three players score in double figures, led by Georgia Amoore, who had 17 points and two steals. Elizabeth Kitley tacked on 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and five blocks, and Aisha Sheppard chipped in with 14 points.
UVA forfeits game
Virginia’s women’s basketball game at No.-3 Louisville this past Thursday was canceled due to mechanical and aircraft staffing issues. The Atlantic Coast Conference made the announcement less than two hours before the scheduled tipoff. The Cavaliers forfeited the contest.
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