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Hokies Fall to Florida State, Exit ACC Tournament Early

By Kyle Beene | March 13
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Sean Pedulla goes up and under with a crafty left-handed layup (Kyle Beene)

An 86-76 loss to No. 9 seed Florida State on Wednesday sent No. 8 seed Virginia Tech home early from the ACC Tournament, despite Sean Pedulla’s 24-point performance.

“It’s tough, especially when you kind of gear up to make a run and get excited for the challenge and opportunity. For it to be over after the first step or the first game and the first game, it definitely sucks,” said Cattoor.

Tech played a strong first half offensively, leading for most of the 20-minute period. Pedulla carried the load with 12, but got into foul trouble around the five-minute mark due to Florida State’s aggressive play.

MJ Collins stepped in to handle the ball for Pedulla, a task he’s managed well this season. On several occasions, Collins has slid into the point in a backup role, showing tremendous growth as a sophomore. Collins' effectiveness at the helm kept Virginia Tech in a decent position during the minutes without the Hokies’ All-ACC Third Team guard.

“[Collins] has done a great job. There was times where I got in foul trouble late tonight, and he had to slide over to the point guard role. He ran the show as good as you can run it in the first half,” said Pedulla. “That’s an impressive thing to do from a guy who doesn’t usually play that spot.”

The Seminoles' combo of length and agility created problems around the rim for Tech. With players like 6’7” Jamir Watkins and Jalen Warley, they pushed the ball inside for 28 points in the opening half, drawing contact on six occasions. Tech struggled to defend the duo, which had 22 in the first half.

Despite Watkins and Warley, who scooped one in for an acrobatic finish at the halftime buzzer, the Hokies had a 37-36 lead on their way to the locker room. While the Hokies have struggled with consistency during the 2023-24 season, feelings in Capital One Arena seemed optimistic ahead of the second half.

“That’s been our whole thing this year, is the consistency. Whether it was from game to game or in the game half to half, that’s the biggest thing. If you want to be a tournament team, you have to be consistent for most of the year,” said Cattoor.

Those feelings were quickly dashed. Florida State opened with five unanswered points, taking a 41-37 lead. Virginia Tech found an answer with a pair of charity shots and a three from Tyler Nickel, but turnovers kindled the flames for another FSU run, now leading by eight.

“It’s persistent, and it’s active. We had a couple of head-scratchers,” said Young on FSU’s defense and turnovers. “They’re really good and very disruptive. It’s uncomfortable.”

The Hokies made a few surges during the final 11 minutes, even grabbing the lead for a moment with seven on the clock, but every swell was followed by an equally low tide. In the instant Tech took the lead, it began a four-minute dry spell, with Watkins and Warley getting it done down low.

“[FSU is] very ratty on the ball and slapping at the ball in your hand. You’ve got to be really strong with it, especially when you get into the paint. They live off those turnovers and getting out in transition,” said Pedulla.

“They were just making it tough on us. Not really giving us open looks in the passing lanes, getting steals, and being rowdy,” said Cattoor. “They just had a good game plan, and we didn’t execute well enough.”

With several opportunities wasted, Tech’s final chance came under the two-minute mark, when a pair of shocking Seminole turnovers brought the game back within two possessions. Primo Spears stepped across the baseline on an inbounds, leading to a Pedulla layup. Then a misconnect on a full-court lob attempt put the Hokies in prime position.

Pedulla missed the bucket and committed his fifth foul to stop the clock, and the Hokies were out of firepower, concluding their trip to Washington DC.

Watkins had 34 with 11 rebounds and four steals. Warley followed with 18 and two takes. Spears finished with 10 and a pair of steals as well.

Pedulla’s 24 led the team, with three rebounds and five assists. Nickel had 18 points and seven boards on an efficient 7-12 shooting, and Collins concluded with 15 points and four assists.

Virginia Tech will hope to continue its season with an NIT bid to compete in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Me Ronnie

Born into a family of Hokies, I can remember watching Frank Beamer and Tyrod Taylor on Saturdays with the family, so attending VT was always the dream. 


In 2020, I began my time at Virginia Tech in the Sports Media Analytics program and eventually joined the Sons in January of 2023 as the softball beat writer. Now, I’ve got football, basketball, and baseball coverage, plus you’ll see some of my photographs in articles throughout the website. 


Graduation is on the horizon, but I can’t wait to come back in the fall to begin my Master’s and continue working with the team!


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