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Behind Keve Aluma, No. 20 Virginia Tech surges past No. 8 UVA

Behind Keve Aluma, No. 20 Virginia Tech surges past No. 8 UVA

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BLACKSBURG — Keve Aluma said he went into Saturday night’s game against rival Virginia aiming to be aggressive. After the contest, UVA coach Tony Bennett said he thought his team played soft.

That combination fueled a career night for Aluma and a dominating second half for No. 20 Virginia Tech as it powered past the No. 8 Cavaliers for a 65-51 win at Cassell Coliseum, the Hokies’ largest margin of victory in the series since 2003.

“You could feel it, how badly they wanted it,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said. “I didn’t feel we answered that.”

In the first half, with Virginia draining 3-pointers, Aluma kept Tech (13-3, 7-2 ACC) in the game. In the second half, he helped the Hokies take it over.

Aluma scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Tech used a 19-0 run in the second half to knock off its fourth ranked opponent of the season.

“I think we had all seen that nobody thought we would win this game,” Aluma said. “That just fuels us more.”

Virginia got 13 points from senior forward Jay Huff and 11 from junior guard Kihei Clark. But after sinking seven shots from 3-point range in the first half, UVA managed just three 3s after the break.

The Cavaliers couldn’t slow down Aluma, especially with Huff in foul trouble.

“There were a lot of things we didn’t do right,” Huff said. “A lot of it was on defense. I take a lot of responsibility for that. … We just didn’t show up tonight.”

Aluma, a Wofford transfer, helped fuel Tech’s second-half takeover as the Hokies snapped a four-game losing streak against Virginia and ended the Cavaliers’ 15-game ACC win streak.

“Just better basketball from our team and couldn’t come at a better time,” said Tech coach Mike Young of his team’s surge after halftime.

Bennett didn’t think his club matched its rival’s intensity, aggressiveness or physicality.

“Finesse does not work in this league,” he said. “And we looked very finesse-y today.”

Tech played its second game without suspended Tyrece Radford, the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder. But Aluma more than covered for that absence.

Virginia’s hot 3-point shooting threatened to turn Saturday night’s rivalry contest into a no-contest. But Aluma’s big night and a big Hokies run in the second half made sure it was another memorable installment in the series.

Five of Virginia’s first six made shots were 3-pointers as it built a 17-13 lead on Sam Hauser’s well-defended, shot clock-beating 3 with 11:16 to play in the half. In all, UVA (11-3, 7-1) hit seven first-half 3-pointers, with three coming against tight defense as the shot clock expired.

A monster first half from Aluma kept things tight. He drove down the lane for a two-handed dunk that tied the game 21-21 with 6:10 left before the break. Aluma scored 16 points before halftime.

But UVA ended the half on an 8-0 run, taking a 29-21 lead to the locker room despite coming up empty on its final five possessions.

Tech got a spark early in the second half from Jalen Cone. The sophomore guard came in mired in a shooting slump. He had gone just 2 for 17 from 3-point range the last three games and missed his first two on Saturday. But Cone knocked down a pair of shots beyond the arc in the first four minutes of the second half, giving the Hokies’ offense an added — and much needed — dimension.

Tech closed to 39-34 after Aluma scored against a Huff-and-Hauser double team with 14:23 to play. But with Huff on the bench, Hauser answered with a 3 from the wing that put UVA back in control.

A 3-pointer by Naheim Alleyne made it a one-shot game, cutting Virginia’s lead to 43-41 with 9:32 to play, and Wabissa Bede followed with a 3 that made it 45-44 Cavaliers with 8:57 to go.

A 3-pointer by sophomore guard Hunter Cattoor tied the game 47-47. And Tech wasn’t done. It scored the next 16 points — with seven coming from Aluma — to go up 63-47 with 2:40 to play.

“They just ran away with it,” Bennett said.

Tech handed Virginia its first conference loss of the season and pulled the Hokies within a half-game of first place in the ACC standings behind the Cavaliers.

“It’s significant now, but let’s hit the brake. It’s late January,” Young said. “They’re not putting a crown on anybody’s head in January.”

FG FT Reb

VIRGINIA M M-A M-A O-T A PF PT

Hauser 34 4-10 0-0 2-5 1 3 10

Huff 23 5-7 0-0 1-4 1 4 13

Beekman 33 0-5 1-2 0-1 3 1 1

Clark 34 4-13 0-0 1-2 0 0 11

Murphy 34 3-7 2-2 1-6 1 3 10

Morsell 25 2-7 0-0 0-1 2 1 4

Woldetensae 8 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 0

Caffaro 5 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 3 0

McKoy 4 1-1 0-0 0-2 0 1 2

Totals 200 19-52 3-4 5-23 9 16 51

Percentages: FG .365, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 10-28, .357 (Huff 3-3, Clark 3-6, Murphy 2-5, Hauser 2-7, Beekman 0-3, Morsell 0-4). Team Rebounds: 1. Team Turnovers: 1. Blocked Shots: 1 (Huff). Turnovers: 8 (Caffaro 2, Clark 2, Huff 2, Beekman, Murphy). Steals: 6 (Clark, Hauser, Huff, Morsell, Murphy, Woldetensae).

FG FT Reb

VA. TECH M M-A M-A O-T A PF PT

Aluma 36 10-15 7-8 2-10 4 0 29

Mutts 34 2-7 0-0 1-8 2 2 4

Alleyne 29 1-4 0-0 0-4 1 1 3

Bede 35 2-3 2-2 0-4 5 4 7

Cone 26 2-6 0-0 0-2 0 1 6

Cattoor 31 5-7 2-2 0-1 1 0 15

N’Guessan 7 0-1 1-2 1-1 0 0 1

Ojiako 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 200 22-44 12-14 4-30 13 8 65

Percentages: FG .500, FT .857. 3-Point Goals: 9-18, .500 (Cattoor 3-5, Aluma 2-3, Cone 2-6, Alleyne 1-1, Bede 1-1, Mutts 0-2). Team Rebounds: 0. Team Turnovers: 1. Blocked Shots: 4 (Cattoor 2, Aluma, Bede). Turnovers: 11 (Alleyne 3, Bede 3, Cone 2, Mutts 2, N’Guessan). Steals: 2 (Bede, Cattoor).

Virginia 29 22 — 51

Virginia Tech 21 44 — 65

A—250 (10,052).

mbarber@timesdispatch.com

Twitter: @RTD_MikeBarber

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