Braeden Anderson’s journey from academic ineligibility to law school

Seton Hall Athletics
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Today, Braeden Anderson is the NCAA’s poster boy, everything they could dream a student-athlete to be.

He finished his undergraduate degree with two years of eligibility remaining, transferring from Fresno State to Seton Hall so he can use scholarship money to pay for his first two years of law school. He did that despite being uprooted from his first school midway through freshman year. He did that despite being in a car accident that should have left him paralyzed.

Today, Braeden Anderson is talking to the media about the importance of student-athletes being, yanno, students. He’s trumpeting the value of an education. He’s pleading with his basketball and football-playing peers to take advantage of the scholarship that’s put in front of them.

“The benefit that you’re getting, the reason that schools are able to make millions off of you, is because you’re getting an education,” he says, as if reading off of a notecard that Mark Emmert slipped him before answering a call from NBCSports.com. “You better be actually taking advantage of that education. That’s what you’re getting paid with!”

But four years ago, an NCAA ruling made it clear that the association did not believe that he would be capable of handling the rigors of a college classroom. Shortly thereafter, a Big 12 ruling forbid him from taking advantage of the scholarship that he had been given by Kansas head coach Bill Self. He wasn’t, they said, enough of a student to be an athlete in the NCAA.

My oh my, how time flies.

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Tacko Fall was the latest social media cause célèbre in the fight against the NCAA, a battle that was won by the masses on Friday. Braeden Anderson knows all too well about the fight that Fall had on his hands.

Fall is a freshman at Central Florida, a 7-foot-6 center from Senegal that is getting As and Bs in Calculus, Chemistry and Engineering classes as we speak, yet the NCAA, last week, told Fall that he was no longer allowed to practice. According to the NCAA, Fall was not prepared to handle the academic rigors of a college curriculum.

Laughable, I know.

It all stems from some bad advice that Fall got when he first arrived in this country in 2012. He spent a year bouncing between sketchy prep schools before finally landing at Liberty Christian, a school that is under extended evaluation by the NCAA. He spent two years there, which is part of the reason the NCAA initially only accepted 7.5 core credits.

It’s not that Fall didn’t do the work, it’s that the NCAA does not trust the school he did the work at, a school he probably never should have been at in the first place.

The good news? The NCAA reversed course and cleared Fall to play this season.

Anderson, however, was nowhere near as lucky.

Despite getting a 1450 on his SATs and earning two As in summer school classes when he first arrived at Kansas, Anderson was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA. He was allowed to go to school and practice with the team, but he was not allowed to suit up on game day. An academic redshirt, if you will. The Big 12, however, decided against allowing him to receive his scholarship, and Anderson, as a result, was forced to leave the school that September, transferring to Fresno State, because he could not afford to pay his own tuition. He sat out the 2011-12 season and was forced to miss the first 20 games of the 2012-13 campaign.

A member of the high school Class of 2011, Anderson didn’t see his first minutes on a college court until February 6th, 2013.

That initial eligibility ruling?

It essentially cost Anderson two years.

And like Fall, it all stemmed from some bad advice Anderson, a native Canadian, received when he came to this country. Anderson followed his AAU coach — Ro Russell, who founded the Grassroots Canada program — to North Carolina with the intention of attending Christian Faith Center Academy. This was back in 2009, before Canadians like Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson made our neighbors to the north the latest recruiting hotbed. “I was really, really good over there,” Anderson, who was averaging 30 points and 15 boards as a 14 year old, “but I couldn’t get any exposure. It wasn’t like it is now.”

But Russell’s promises never came to fruition, and it’s unclear if the school, as Russell described it, ever actually existed. According to an investigation by the CBC’s Fifth Estate — Canada’s equivalent to Dateline NBC — the 11 players that Russell brought to North Carolina weren’t enrolled at CFCA. Instead, they were in a school with a similar name that was owned by Russell. They practiced at CFCA’s gym and, as Anderson put it back in 2011, “our basketball jerseys said ‘Christian Faith Center’ on them,” but they didn’t attend class, according to Fifth Estate. They took online courses while their parents continued to send tuition money to Russell.

Whether this was a scam by Russell or simply a way for him to try and work around a delay in student visas is unclear. What is clear, however, is that it was those online courses that weren’t accepted by the NCAA, and Anderson was far from the only player that got caught up in the wake of the scandal.

“I was not a bad student when I was ruled a partial,” Anderson said. “I cared about education more than most kids.”

The irony here is that Anderson is actually thankful for the opportunity that Russell provided him, even though the mess Russell created at CFCA cost Anderson a chance to play at Kansas, even though he went 20 months between his first college class and his first college game. The school may not have been real, but the exposure was. The recruiting letters and scholarship offers were, and Anderson firmly believes that, were it not for that school year, he would not be in a position today to be receive an athletic scholarship to attend law school.

“Am I mad at him? Of course not,” Anderson said. “If it wasn’t for him giving me that first shot, I wouldn’t have had all the other opportunities that came after that.”

“At that point I had options I didn’t have before. Basketball-wise, it was great. The legal, technical stuff, that was a mess.”

That mess may have damaged Anderson’s basketball career, but it couldn’t put a dent in his spirit.

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The a typical day for a first-year law student that plays college basketball in the Big East begins at roughly 6:00 a.m. That’s when Braeden Anderson gets out of bed to make the protein shake that he drinks every morning while reading over the roughly 100 pages of notes that he took for class that day.

He’s in class by 7:30 most mornings, although a couple days a week he has the luxury of waiting until 8:30 before the learning commences. He’ll be in class until 12:30, when he has a chance to head back to his apartment to get some food before practice. He’s usually there more than an hour early so he can get treatment, watch film and maybe get a quick lift in — his morning classes mean that he’s not there for Seton Hall’s individual workouts, team lifts or film sessions — before practice, which normally lasts until about 6:00 p.m.

After he gets dinner, Anderson’s night consists of … studying. He’ll read, take notes and prep for the next morning’s rigorous course load.

“Law school is different from normal school in the sense that they’re not there to teach you what the law is. They’re not there to teach you what you need to know,” he said. “Your job is to go home and teach yourself the law through what you read, and when you come to class you need to be prepared to solve problems with the tools that you learned on your own time.”

He’s normally in bed by 1:00 a.m., giving him a full five hours of sleep on a good night.

“I could do a half-assed job and get to bed by 10, but I want to be doing my best. I want to really understand everything and I’ve done everything that I’m expected to do,” he said. He wants to get the most out of that $90,000-a-year law school education. “Sleep is not one of the luxuries I have at the moment.”

Seton Hall Athletics
Seton Hall Athletics

“He’s a very determined young man,” said head coach Kevin Willard, who recruited Anderson knowing exactly what he would be doing this season. Anderson’s official visit dealt more with law school than it did with basketball. “He’s very smart and very opinionated, which will probably make him a good lawyer.”

“He has a very mature presence about him, which is really nice in the locker room,” Willard continued. “That’s what I’ve seen, that some of the grab-ass that my younger guys used to do [has ended].”

That’s the result, Willard believes, of just how much Anderson has been through in his life. Because forget moving to a new country at age 15. Forget having to wait 20 months to play college basketball. Both of those pale in comparison to the fight Anderson had on his hands after the car accident that should have ended his career.

It happened on September 3rd, 2013. Anderson was a passenger in a car driven by a Fresno State walk-on Kyle Jackson. Two other teammates were in the car when it was involved in a wreck caused by a drunk driver. One person died in the accident No one else in Anderson’s car was injured, but Anderson’s neck hit the ceiling of the vehicle that he was in. He fractured and displaced his C5 and C6 vertebrae, an injury that surgeons told him had a 0.4 percent chance at a full recovery. He had multiple surgeries. He spent a month and a half in the hospital, losing 60 pounds while spending his days getting poked and prodded with so many needles — getting blood drawn, getting morphine pumped into his veins — that his veins turned rock hard.

“They call them heroin veins,” Anderson said. “one nurse came in and tried to do an IV and asked me if I was a drug addict because my veins were so bad.”

“I didn’t know what pain was until I went through this experience,” he continued. “I kind of wanted to die. In a lot of instances, it was like, ‘OK, I lived long enough.’ It was that bad. You can’t sleep for days at a time because of the pain, and all you can think of is pain, for days on end. There goes a point where you’re like, ‘Hey, I’ve lived a pretty good life, I’ve accomplished some things. I’m a good person. You know what? Just take me.'”

He missed the entire 2013-14 season as he recovered.

To look at it another way, Anderson’s first full season of college basketball came in 2014-15, when he should have been a senior.

Those NBA dreams he had when he committed to Kansas four years? They were more or less dashed, and as disappointing as that was, it reinforced Anderson’s belief in the educational system. It opened his eyes to how the value and the importance of the scholarship that he was receiving. That will happen when your basketball career — your ability to walk, your life — is dangled in front of you.

“Not to be dark about it, but let’s be honest, the basketball stops bouncing very, very shortly after college,” he said.

And not just for him.

For the overwhelming majority of college athletes as well.

That’s why he’s speaking out.

“I have a problem with what’s going on right now with college athletics and with my peers and my fellow student-athletes,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to pigeon hole football and basketball into a corner here, but it’s mostly those guys that I want to talk to and want to set an example for.”

“When you’re a college athlete, and the NCAA wants to say, ‘hey, you’re an amateur, you’re a student-athlete’, that’s what you are! The benefit that you’re getting. The reason that schools are able to make millions off of you, is because you’re getting an education. You better be actually taking advantage of that education. That’s what you’re getting paid with right now. And that’s something that’s overlooked by so many student-athletes.”

He’s not saying college athletes don’t deserve more. He believes they should.

So don’t get it twisted.

But even with cost of attendance scholarships, even with stipends and money for books and unlimited per diem, Anderson has has a message he believes college athletes need to hear.

“Find a major. Find a degree that actually falls in line with something you might want to do when you’re done playing ball. Research. Make [education] something that’s important. Think about [your] future after [you]’re done playing the sport. You play pro, great, but you still gotta have skills to fall back on after you’re done playing.”

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The root cause of the NCAA’s need for academic regulation and initial eligibility testing is tied to the idea of amateurism and the student-athlete. They need to keep up the facade lest they admit that the athletes whose performance generates billions of dollars for the school and the association are, in fact, professionals and do, indeed, deserve a bigger cut of the profits.

They’ll sell you on the idea that the existence of the NCAA Eligibility Center is to create a level playing field, that it is to ensure that the athletes that are accepted into, say, Auburn have an academic background that is as legitimate as the athletes that can get accepted by Vanderbilt.

But that’s not really the case.

The truth is that the Eligibility Center exists so that the NCAA can say they are doing everything they can to ensure that the athletes accepting those scholarships are capable of utilizing them. It’s the association’s way of testing the academic aptitude of incoming athletes, making sure that they’re functionally ready for college courses. It’s their way of saying these kids are going to be able to reap the benefits of the compensation they’re receiving for playing their sport.

There are a myriad of lawsuits that the NCAA is facing that could change the system entirely. The charade can’t end now.

The issue is that the current process for determining initial eligibility doesn’t measure an athlete’s ability to handle a college classroom moving forward, it evaluates the decisions they’ve made in the past; decisions that, more often than not, were made by an advisor that shouldn’t have been trusted. Did the kid with a sketchy transcript pick the right diploma mill to attend, the one that the NCAA has deemed worthy enough to accept kids from? Did they take the right online courses? Were they able to obtain an accurate transcript from their school in another country or from the public school they attended early in their high school career in a school district that can barely afford to pay their teachers?

The NCAA has reportedly requested the sixth-grade transcripts of Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo, who has yet to be cleared to play this season. Diallo came to America from Mali when he was in ninth grade, completed his summer school classes at Kansas and is well past the midway point of a full load of courses for the fall semester.

But the NCAA needs evidence from when he was 12 years old to determine if he can handle the college courses currently enrolled in? The classes he’s already completed?

And that is the fatal flaw in the initial eligibility process.

A year at a shady prep school run by a con man made the NCAA believe that Braeden Anderson couldn’t handle being a college student. They ignored his SAT score. They ignored the As he had already received in college classes. But they can’t ignore that he’s graduated early, and they can’t ignore that he’s currently enrolled in law school while still playing college basketball.

If that isn’t proof that the initial eligibility process is broken, then I don’t know what is.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 Kansas State, 69-66

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.

BIG PICTURE

Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.

STAT SNACKS

Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.

Pedulla’s 22 points lift Virginia Tech past No. 6 Virginia

Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Pedulla scored 22 points and Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Virginia 74-68 on Saturday, snapping the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak.

Pedulla made 6 of 13 from the floor as the Hokies (14-10, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted their biggest win of the season. He added 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Justin Mutts added 17 points.

Virginia Tech never trailed and shot 50% from the floor for the fourth straight game.

“There was no pouting (after the Miami loss). Just back to practice the next day,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said of his team, which lost 92-83 to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday. “Yeah, we’ve got Virginia coming in. Yes, in-state and all of that stuff. We’ve got another opportunity to play another really good opponent. We’ve got a chance to play Virginia Tech basketball and fight and compete and adhere to the things that are important to us – and we did that by and large on both ends of the floor.”

Jayden Gardner’s 20 points led Virginia (17-4, 9-3), which saw its usually stingy defense struggle. Kihei Clark finished with 17 points for the Cavaliers, while Reece Beekman had 15. Armaan Franklin, who had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had six.

The Cavaliers tied the game at 38 on Gardner’s basket with 15:09 remaining, but the Hokies outscored Virginia 17-7 over the next seven minutes and never looked back.

Mutts hit 7 of 11 from the floor and added eight assists and four rebounds. Grant Basile had 14 points and Hunter Cattoor scored all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

“The heart was there, but to win in this setting against a team that’s playing good basketball, and Tech is, and they’ve got the players, you’ve got to be hard and smart,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You can’t just be all hard. We were (hard and smart) for stretches, and they made us make some adjustments that helped a little bit, but they made the big shots.”

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers suffered a rare poor outing on the defensive end, and it cost them. They led the ACC in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) going in, but allowed the Hokies to score 74 points and shoot 50.9% (27 of 53) from the floor. The Hokies became just the third team this season to shoot better than 50% against Virginia and scored 40 points in the paint.

“They run a lot of action, whether it’s dribble handoffs, fakes, they keep you on your toes, and it takes an incredible, and I think disciplined (effort) to keep them in front and keep them out of the paint,” Bennett said.

Virginia Tech: After losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Hokies needed a big win to help their thin NCAA Tournament resume. Registering 19 assists and turning the ball over just eight times were keys.

“Obviously, we keep up with stuff throughout the year, like `Oh, this would be a huge win on our resume,”‘ Pedulla said. “We do think about (the NCAA Tournament), and we obviously want to get there again. We know our team’s capable of it. We’re focused on it and we’re just trying to stack those wins on top of each other. I think this win definitely helps us.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cavaliers were one-point underdogs going into the game, so they shouldn’t drop more than a few spots in Monday’s poll.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts N.C. State on Tuesday.

Virginia Tech: Takes on Boston College in Blacksburg on Wednesday.