On Senior Day, Everything Clicked for the Hokies in Their Dominant 82-60 Victory Over Florida State
When Enter Sandman blared over the speakers of Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, nine of the ten players starting on the floor for either squad were locked in, focused, and ready for the opening tipoff.
The lone outlier was Justyn Mutts. Moments away from playing in his final regular-season game in a Virginia Tech uniform, the graduate student was jumping up and down, swinging his arms, and looked to be taking in every note of the intro to one of Metallica’s most iconic songs.
“I think just taking every moment in you try to make it last,” Mutts said of his pregame actions postgame. “[I just wanted to] try to stretch it a little bit, you know what I mean? Just tryna really live in the moment.”
On a special senior day, Virginia Tech (18-13, 8-12 ACC) made sure not to disappoint Mutts and Hunter Cattoor, who were honored before the game, squandering Florida State (9-22, 7-13) 82-60 in its regular-season finale.
The last Enter Sandman in Cassell for @hokiesmbb’s Justyn Mutts and (potentially) last for Hunter Cattoor. Mutts is feeling good pregame and taking it all in. #Hokies @SonsofSatVT pic.twitter.com/qzCcW3uNTA— Nels Williams (@NelsWilliams) March 4, 2023
The Hokies’ offense played in full force Saturday to rally behind their veterans. Shooting 29-of-56 (52%) from the floor and 16-of-34 (47%) from deep, Tech rode the hot hand of Sean Pedulla, who sank six of his eight attempted threes. The Edmond, Okla., product found his rhythm early in the contest, as he drilled his first five attempts.
Pedulla ended up atop the scorer’s sheet for the game and the Hokies, notching a career-high 25 points, just two more than his previous career-high of 23. Cattoor followed with 14, Grant Basile with 13, and Rodney Rice and MJ Collins with 10.
Mutts and Lynn Kidd also contributed with eight and two, respectively.
“I thought it was good,” Tech head coach Mike Young said of his offense. “I thought our team got a handle on it [Florida State’s defense] early on, passed the ball well. … The game is a heck of a lot easier when the ball gets in the basket. … We’ve got some guys that can ring the bell, and we did tonight. … Good night for the Hokies.”
Tech’s defense was stellar, too. The Hokies held the Seminoles to just 44% (26-of-59) shooting-wise and 33% (8-of-24) from long-range. The Noles’ leading scorer, Matthew Cleveland, was limited to just 10 points. Caleb Mills Jr. topped Florida State’s scoring sheet with 14.
Everything was working in favor of Virginia Tech Saturday. It out-rebounded Florida State 30-24, coughed up fewer turnovers, and never let the Seminoles have any lead whatsoever during the game. It felt like something special was in the air Saturday afternoon in Cassell, and Virginia Tech certainly had something to play for in its seniors.
Before the opening tip, the graduating student managers, Cattoor, and Mutts were honored for their contributions to the team. The ceremony featured tribute videos and Virginia Tech jerseys given to the managers, and decorated jerseys of Cattoor and Mutts’ own jerseys to them.
The duo both received long, standing ovations, and for good reason. Their impacts as Hokies have helped Virginia Tech soar to new heights and become a legitimate threat in the ACC when they’ve donned the maroon and orange. Both starters on the 2022 ACC Tournament Championship team, Mutts will leave Blacksburg as a fan-favorite, and his contributions as a Hokie will not be forgotten.
Cattoor, however, has one more year of eligibility remaining due to the Covid-19 year granted by the NCAA. His decision on whether or not he will return next season is unclear.
“He [Cattoor] affects winning in so many more ways than scoring,” Young said of Cattoor. “He’s the best cutter we got, the best receiver we got, the best screener we’ve got, and he’s gonna draw the other team’s best backcourt player every game. He was terrific there.
“I’m proud of him. I’ve had a wonderful time coaching him. I’ve had a wonderful time seeing him progress and mature physically as a basketball player. He’s really, really, good, and it’s been a real treat to have him here.”
@CattoorHunter and @JM_Squarepants, thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for #Hokies nation. We are forever grateful for you both❤— Sons of Saturday #Hokies (@SonsofSatVT) March 4, 2023
: @NelsWilliams pic.twitter.com/hYK9pg3vM2
With the regular-season now in the Hokies’ rearview mirror, Virginia Tech faces an uphill battle for the second straight season heading into this year’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. As an 11 seed, the Tech will face 14-seeded Notre Dame Tuesday night, and if they want to make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, they have to win the ACC Tournament outright.
However, for Mutts, he has high spirits about the Tournament. And he wants to hear Enter Sandman one more time on the court as a Hokie.
“I think last year, after our last regular-season game, the only time I heard Enter Sandman that year was after we won the ACC Tournament when they [the ACC] played it when confetti was falling,” Mutts said. “So hopefully we can have that experience again, and hopefully that’s [Saturday] not my last time hearing it.”