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Loss at UVa drops 'surprised' Virginia Tech to 0-4 in ACC

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — If you are surprised the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team is 0-4 in the ACC, you are not alone.

The Hokies are surprised, too.

Virginia Tech fell to 8-7 overall and 0-4 in the ACC after a 54-52 loss at Virginia on Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

“We never thought we would be here,” said point guard Storm Murphy, who had 10 points. “Definitely surprised and definitely a little shocking and it hurts.

“We are too good of a basketball team, we have too much experience on this team — things we’ve prided ourselves on all preseason and all season. So we need to continue to just have belief and confidence.

“We didn’t expect to be here, but [there’s] a lot of basketball left. … If we just kind of believe in ourselves even more right now and we actually realize how good and how capable we are, I think that’s going to exude a lot of confidence throughout the whole program and we’ll … not even think about 0-4.”

Virginia Tech was picked fifth in the ACC’s preseason media poll and received votes in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll. But the Hokies are now alone in the ACC cellar; Georgia Tech picked up its first ACC win Wednesday night.

“This is not where I thought we would be four games into the ACC, but you’ve got to take it on the chin and move to the next one,” said Tech center Keve Aluma, who had 22 points Wednesday.

Tech coach Mike Young also said he was surprised to be 0-4 in league play.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I’m disappointed for my team. But … we’ve got a good basketball team. We’re going to pick our heads up.

“We play as connected and as hard-nosed as we did tonight night in and night out, we’re going to win plenty in this league. Need something good to happen.”

The Hokies are 0-4 in ACC play for the first time since the 2014-15 season, when Tech lost its first six ACC games in Buzz Williams’ first year as Tech’s coach.

But little was expected of that team.

This Tech team was expected to make the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies returned four of the top six scorers from a team that made the NCAAs last year. They start three fifth-year seniors and two juniors.

“I didn’t think we’d be in this situation,” said Tech guard Hunter Cattoor, who had 10 points and five assists. “We just haven’t put it all together out there on the court yet to get this going, but we’re going to get it soon.

“We’ve got good dudes in that locker room who are going to keep fighting, keep working hard. So I’m not worried about it. It’s a long season.”

Trailing 52-48, Virginia (10-6, 4-2) scored the final six points of Wednesday’s game. The Hokies went the final 3:14 without a point.

“We had good shots [late]. … Really good Virginia defense that just got the better of us in that particular stretch,” Young said.

Tech committed three turnovers and missed three shots in the final three minutes.

“We just haven’t been able to close out games,” Cattoor said.

Aluma made a layup to extend Tech’s lead to 52-48 with 3:14 left, but the Hokies never scored again.

UVa backup center Francisco Caffaro made one of two free throws to cut the lead to 52-49.

After Tech’s Justyn Mutts turned the ball over on a bad pass that went out of bounds, Caffaro scored to cut the lead to 52-51 with 2:21 left.

Aluma turned the ball over on the baseline when Jayden Gardner went over to double-team him. Armaan Franklin made two free throws to give UVa a 53-52 lead with 1:31 to go.

“There was a double [team] coming and it just kind of shocked me and I lost the ball … out of bounds,” Aluma said.

Aluma missed a hook shot with 1:08 left.

Thanks to a Mutts block and a UVa shot-clock violation, Tech got the ball back. But Aluma traveled when he slipped and fell to the floor while driving to the basket, turning the ball over with 14.2 seconds to go.

“I had those two [late] turnovers. Those were big. That was probably the game,” Aluma said. “I just slipped and I tried to get the ball to Justyn and they just called a travel.

“I just keep thinking about those two turnovers. I just think I’ve got to be better at the end of the game.”

Kihei Clark made one of two free throws with 13.5 seconds left to extend UVa’s lead to 54-52.

Cattoor missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left.

“It felt good coming out of my hand. Thought the shot was going to go down. It didn’t,” Cattoor said.

“Hunter gets a great crack at it,” Young said.

Aluma tipped the ball out to Murphy, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“The tip-out comes to me kind of in a whirlwind,” Murphy said. “I had two guys close out to me; gave a shot fake to get them up. … Didn’t know … how much time I really had on the clock left. … I rushed the shot a little bit. Wish I followed through, wish I got set a little bit more. But it was a good look and still felt good.”

“We get another pretty good crack at it from Storm,” Young said.

Tech shot 42% from the field to UVa’s 40% but attempted only three free throws. UVa scored 14 points off Tech’s 12 turnovers.

Caffaro had a career-high 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds. He also helped guard Aluma, who was 9 of 20 from the field.

‘That’s a strong dude,” Aluma said. “He was just relentless.”

Next up for Tech is a Saturday home game against a Notre Dame squad that has won six straight games.

What does Young want to see happen in order for Tech to turn things around?

“That [Tech performance] right there — just a little bit better,” Young said.

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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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