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Hokies Stifle the Catamounts in Cassell

By Sam Jessee | December 17
via @HokiesMBB on X

The Hokies welcomed in perennial NCAA Tournament contestant, Vermont, to Cassell Coliseum and dominated from start to finish in a 73-51 victory. It was the second consecutive 20+ point win for the Hokies and the fourth on the season. The Hokies were led by Lynn Kidd, who used his length to yet again own the paint scoring 17 and grabbing 11 rebounds. It was also a big game for new Hokie Tyler Nickel, who scored 13 points in 30 minutes of action.

The story of the day was the defense, which held Vermont to just 17 first half points. To be fair to the Catamounts, a long road trip just after final exams would be tough for any team, but Mike Young wasn't going to dismiss his team's performance so easily.

"We had something to do with their cold shooting make no mistake about it," said Mike Young in the postgame interview.

"I think the most important statistic is we limited them to 20 [three point] attempts. They shoot 50% of their field goals are from three...the best we've played defensively."

The on-ball defense from the Hokies has gotten noticeably better this season, with only a hot-shooting South Carolina and an elite offense in Florida Atlantic having left some dirty spots on an otherwise clean season for the often maligned defense. In fact, the Hokies now boast an adjusted defensive efficiency of 98.3 via KenPom (a measure of how many points you allow per 100 possessions, adjusted for the quality of your opponent). That's good for 52nd out of 349 teams, quite the increase from last season.

A major part of that growth has been the presence of veterans Mekhi Long and Robbie Beran. Neither have stuffed the stats this season, but both have been rock solid on defense. Another newcomer, Tyler Nickel, has also shown vast improvement on the defensive side of the ball. In high school and at North Carolina last season the narrative around Nickel was that he struggled to guard at a high level. The opposite has been true this season, however, as Nickel has been a lockdown defender on the wing.

Offensively the Hokies got back to their roots, using ball movement and spacing to hit 10 threes and limiting themselves to just 7 turnovers. Much of that production was spread around as the Hokies had seven players hit from the behind the arc. Also of note, only one Hokie, Nickel, played 30+ minutes. Starting PG Sean Pedulla only logged 16 minutes after coming back from a foot injury. Fellow starters Lynn Kidd and Hunter Cattoor only saw 24 and 22 minutes of action, respectively.

In their stead, freshman Jaydon Young and Brandon Rechsteiner played well and looked the part. Young hit a couple of threes while Rechsteiner ran the offense with authority and tossed 3 assists. Neither player had a turnover in 42 combined minutes of play. It's been a welcomed development, especially with Rechsteiner who will need to play major minutes as the backup PG.

"Freshmen can sometimes think that their road to impressing you and getting more is's not true. Guard, manage the team, manage the game, make easy plays, and he did that better tonight than he's done it and he's had some other very good moments for us," said Mike Young.

While Pedulla was able to take the next step in his recovery, sophomore guard M.J. Collins was out again with what Mike Young described as "a sore knee". The Hokies will have 5 days until their next contest, but no timetable has been given for Collins. Pedulla should be good to go.

The Hokies climbed to 8-3 on the season and remain perfect in Blacksburg. The Catamounts fall to 8-4, but are still the favorites to win their third American East Conference title in a row.

"That is a good win. That's one that we'll look back on in March and will be a real feather in our cap," said Mike Young.

The Hokies will welcome the Eagles from American University on Thursday at 5pm on ACCNx/ESPN+. The Eagles are 5-6 on the season and ranked #290 in KenPom.

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I'm a born and raised Hokie. My first game in Lane Stadium was in September of 1997 when Tech stomped Big East rival Syracuse 31-3. 

I was born and raised in Richmond, VA, where I developed a passion for local cooking, scenic nature, and everything Orange and Maroon. I graduated from Tech with a degree in Finance in 2019 and received my Master's in Data Analytics in 2021. I'm a certified analytics nerd with a passion for data visualization and modeling, which fuels much of my work.

I joined the Sons team in 2020, and now act as the Website Content Manager overseeing all online content and mentoring our talented tea of writers. I also co-host the Two Deep podcast with Pete B.

I currently work in Virginia Beach, VA, as a data and financial analyst for LifeNet Health, a biotech and organ transplant non-profit.

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