CHARLOTTE – “It’s only December.”
Virginia Tech coach Mike Young – and his point guard Storm Murphy – emphasized that point, both after the Hokies’ recent loss to Dayton and during the practices leading up to Friday’s game against St. Bonaventure.
Young’s Hokies turned in a complete effort Friday – no matter the month – in pummeling St. Bonaventure from wire to wire in an 86-49 victory in game two of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout at the Spectrum Center.
“I think we just brought back our swagger,” Virginia Tech guard Storm Murphy said. “Today, there was a big emphasis on just having emotion out there, enjoying the game, and having fun. I think it showed out there today.”
Virginia Tech (8-4) never trailed, with Hunter Cattoor starting the onslaught by hitting back-to-back triples on Tech’s first two scoring trips. The opening Hokie run reached 13-0 before Mark Schmidt requested a stoppage. Tech gradually worked the lead to 20 on a Murphy triple at the 5:35 mark. Keve Aluma knocked down two free throws with 25 seconds to play in the period, giving Tech its largest first-half lead at 22. The Hokies took that 42-20 advantage to the interval.
The Hokies turned in a blazing first half, connecting on 54.2 percent of their tries. Tech also hit 8-of-15 triples in the period. Conversely, St. Bonaventure (8-3) hit just 31 percent of its shots (8-for-23), with only 2-of-10 attempts from distance finding the twine. Tech also compelled 12 first-half turnovers from the Bonnies.
The dominant effort continued into the second twenty. Another Murphy bucket stretched the lead to 30 nearly six minutes into the period. Tech continued to score nearly 1.4 points per possession well into the half, stretching the margin as high as 37. The suffocating Hokie defense also held St. Bonaventure well shy of half that per-possession total for most of the contest.
The lead finally eclipsed 40 on a Cattoor free throw at the 4:45 mark.
“The credit goes to Virginia Tech. I thought they played extremely well,” said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt. “They shot the ball really well, both on the perimeter and inside. We didn’t have any answers. We didn’t play well at all. That was partly us and partly because of Virginia Tech.”
“That St. Bonaventure team, they’re terrific. They are really, really good,” Young said. “They had a bad day today. We’ve had a couple of bad days. They’ll bounce back as we bounced back in here this afternoon.”
The Hokies bounced back, Young said, by getting the motion back in their motion offense.
“On both ends of the floor, the ball’s not sticking,” Young said. The ball’s inside, it’s back to the perimeter, it’s changing sides of the floor during possessions. Really, really unselfish basketball, and I thought we were as unselfish defensively as we were offensively.”
Cattoor paced all scorers, turning in 21 in the victory. Murphy scored 18, a high for his time at Tech. Aluma added 12. The Hokies shot 55 percent for the game. Virginia Tech also assisted on half of its 28 made baskets in the contests.
Dominick Welch tallied 11 for St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies hit 33.3 percent (18-for 54) of their tries, with just six of 23 three-point tries connecting.
Both teams resume play next Wednesday. Virginia Tech travels to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium for a 9:00 tip. St. Bonaventure travels to Boston to play Northeastern. That game will tip at noon.