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'Juiced' Virginia Tech wins at Navy

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Navy men’s basketball team had upset one of the commonwealth’s ACC schools in its first game of the season.

But on Friday night, Navy was no match for the other one.

Virginia Tech did what Virginia could not, beating the Midshipmen 77-57 at Alumni Hall in the Veterans Classic.

“We were all just so juiced, it was easy to play well,” said Tech center Keve Aluma, who had 20 points and six rebounds.

Navy (1-1) had stunned No. 25 Virginia 66-58 in Charlottesville on Tuesday.

“It certainly got our attention,” Tech coach Mike Young said of that game. “We challenged our team a little bit and they certainly responded.”

“We were definitely pretty dialed in,” Aluma said. “We knew we were going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

The Hokies (2-0) grabbed the lead less than two minutes into the game and never relinquished it. Tech jumped to a 17-4 lead with 14:49 left in the first half.

“We just couldn’t guard them,” Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. “We were just a step behind. … They just scored, scored, scored and we never really stopped them. They just did what they wanted to do.”

Navy forward Tyler Nelson said there were a few differences between Tuesday and Friday.

“It was just a different pace of the game, a different physicality,” he said. “[The Hokies] were bigger, stronger.

“They’re going to make a difference in the NCAA Tournament.”

Tech shot 50% from the field, including 53.6% in the first half. The Hokies led 45-27 at halftime.

“We were just running our stuff well and with good pace,” said Tech junior guard Hunter Cattoor, who scored a career-high 19 points. “Our juice on defense set up our offense. We were getting stops early — it was easier to run in transition. Put them back on their heels and we were just firing away.”

Cattoor was 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He credited “great passing” for his 3-pointers.

“We went inside out,” he said. “We’ve got a great frontcourt with Keve and Justyn [Mutts], so a lot of teams are going to try to double-team on them, and they’re good enough to play-make and get the ball out.”

Cattoor had four assists and two steals. He also drew two Navy charges.

“Hunter Cattoor is just a really good basketball player,” Young said.

Aluma was 5 of 9 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.

“He couldn’t make 10 for 10 in his wildest dreams when we were together [at Wofford],” Young said. “He’s really, really worked at his game.”

“At Wofford, I was scared to shoot an air ball, … so I just threw it up there,” Aluma said. “Now I just try to take my time and focus.”

Wofford graduate transfer Storm Murphy had 11 points and six rebounds for Tech. Mutts added nine points and seven rebounds. Nahiem Alleyne had eight points and three assists.

“They’ve got great length,” DeChellis said of the Hokies. “They’ve got great post play. They’ve got guys who can really shoot on the perimeter. And they added a guy [Murphy] that really delivers the ball for everybody.

“They were very challenging to guard.”

Navy shot just 39.2% from the field.

“They’re long. They’re athletic. They’re physical. So they can cover a lot of ground,” DeChellis said of the Hokies. “I knew the speed would be different than we’re used to playing.

“They closed down pretty quickly on guys. They really challenged shots. They fight through some screens. … They have really good speed and they can close out.”

The Midshipmen were 11 of 21 from 3-point range at UVa but were only 3 of 25 from that distance Friday.

“We did a terrific job defensively in limiting them from the arc,” Young said.

Navy’s John Carter Jr., who had 19 points at UVa, was held to four points Friday. Carter, who was guarded by Alleyne, was just 2 of 12 from the field and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Navy had outrebounded UVa 35-30. But Tech outrebounded the Midshipmen 35-29.

“That was our biggest problem — rebounding,” Nelson said.

The Hokies scored 11 straight points to build an 11-2 lead with 16:59 left in the first half.

Tech’s lead grew to 22-6 with 13:00 to go in the first half. Aluma and Cattoor each had eight points at that point.

Navy later scored six straight points to cut the lead to 24-17, but the Hokies answered with a 9-0 run.

The Midshipmen cut the lead to 49-39 with 13:55 left in the game, but Tech answered with an 11-0 run.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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