No. 24 Virginia Tech holds off Miami 80-78 in ACC battle

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Keve Aluma scored a career-high 26 points and No. 24 Virginia Tech made crucial free throws in the final minute on the way to an 80-78 victory over Miami on Tuesday night.

Aluma hit 9 of 16 shots from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line for the Hokies (8-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their fourth straight game and will enter 2021 at the top of the ACC standings. Aluma added six rebounds and four assists.

Justyn Mutts added 15 points for Virginia Tech, which made three free throws in the final 37 seconds to hold off the ‘Canes (4-3, 0-2). Tyrece Radford finished with 13 points, and Jalen Cone had 12 for the Hokies.

Isaiah Wong and Matt Cross paced Miami with 16 points apiece.

The ‘Canes trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half, but rallied in the closing seconds. Wong missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left that would have given Miami the lead. Mutts then missed two free throws for the Hokies with 3 seconds left, but Tech’s Wabissa Bede stole an outlet pass after the second miss, closing out the game.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The ‘Canes have lost three of their last four, and injuries continue to plague them. Preseason All-ACC guard Chris Lykes missed his fifth consecutive game with an ankle injury, and guard Kameron McGusty has missed three straight with a hamstring injury. The ‘Canes missed both, too, as they committed a season-high 19 turnovers, which contributed mightily to their demise.

Virginia Tech: Behind Aluma and Mutts, the Hokies played well until the final 1:30, but two turnovers and shoddy free-throw shooting – 3 of 7 in that span – nearly led to them squandering a huge second-half lead. They will need to get that cleaned up, as they get set to take a step up in competition Saturday, when they play at No. 23 Virginia in their first true road game of the season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The length of the Hokies’ second stint in the Top 25 will be determined Saturday in Charlottesville. A win there should propel them several spots in the poll.

UP NEXT

Miami: The ‘Canes host Clemson on Saturday.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at No. 23 Virginia on Saturday.