Jeff Capel's Pittsburgh Panthers came to play on Wednesday night, completely dominating Virginia Tech in an 83-72 win.
Pitt, which entered the matchup against the No. 16 Hokies on a three-game losing streak, instead looked like the team that started ACC play with four wins in five tries.
Even with Justin Champagnie accounting for only half of his scoring output, he dropped 10 instead of his usual 20, the Panthers found success through Xavier Johnson's outstanding 32 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Champagnie was still active, though, and secured his ACC-leading eighth double-double of the season.
The Hokies couldn't sustain a run and missed Tyrece Radford's ability to push the ball into the paint.
"They played better than we did," Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said. "They were more physical. We had absolutely no answer for Johnson."
"We beat a very good basketball team," Capel said. "I thought we fought. We looked like the team we've been the majority of the season. ... I thought our guys stepped up and made shots and made plays. I thought we defended them really well."
Tech, coming off an important win in the Commonwealth Clash over then-No. 8 UVa, couldn't buy a basket outside of Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts.
After scoring a career-high 29 points against the Cavaliers on Saturday, Aluma one-upped himself with 30. He added ten rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Mutts played well, too, with 17 points, his season-high, and six boards.
Outside of that duo, which accounted for 47 of Tech's 72 points (65%), only Hunter Cattoor scored in double figures with 12 and the Hokies shot 41%.
"You have to put things in the basket to have them questioning some things," Young said. "They're picking up 35-36 feet and pushing you away a bit. I don't think we were very good on either end. Pitt shoots 50% and scores 80 points. Not a very good night. I'd be remiss if I didn't credit Pittsburgh."
Pitt's defense was good, switching between man and zone on occasion and forcing eight turnovers. While allowing Tech's frontcourt to have a day, the backcourt couldn't seem to find a rhythm.
Where Aluma and Mutts made 17 of their 28 attempts (61%), the other six Hokies were eight-for-35 (23%). Outside of Cattoor, only Jalen Cone (nine points, 3-9 3FG) made more than one basket.
To add to the dominant defensive performance, the Panthers got out in transition, which blew the game open. Pitt posted 10 fastbreak points, with six from Johnson and four from Au'Diese Toney. He was extremely complementary to Johnson and Champagnie on the night with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Tied at 31 at intermission, Tech completely faltered in the second half, allowing a 13-0 run that helped the Panthers clinch their fifth ACC win. Pitt hit three of its nine three-pointers during that stretch and ran away with it from there, as Tech never pulled closer than 11 after that.
"I thought we looked like the team that we've been the majority of the season," Capel said. "We had a three-game stretch where we didn't play well. I'm not going to say we panicked, but there was a sense of urgency. In the second half, we were able to get into a rhythm offensively and the guys made some big-time plays.
"Most teams have gone through stretches where they haven't played well for various reasons. I tried to be patient and hold them accountable, and we responded."
Tech was competitive on the boards (33-31, Pitt) and its eight turnovers were only one more than Pitt, but the scoring drought in the second half took the Hokies out of the game.
The Panthers seemed to get everything they wanted against what was the ACC's second-most efficient defense entering the day, shooting 50% and scoring 47 points off the bench.
"We got spooked when a couple of threes went down," Young said. "It's like we went away from our principles and got spread out a little bit, and they got downhill with Johnson and Toney. In one of the few instances in 17 games this year, we didn't adhere to principles that have served us quite well this season."
The abandonment of those tenets allowed Pitt to hit 58% of its field goals in the second half and hit five of nine attempts from behind the arc.
The Panthers also got to the free throw line an outstanding 25 times and converted 22 of those attempts. 19 of those trips to the stripe came in the second half, and Pitt made 17.
"We were just a step off where we needed to be. Pittsburgh was the more physical team. They were the tougher team, and that's been a category that typically favors the Hokies. They were more hungry and more desperate, and credit to Coach Capel and his staff. They righted the ship and outplayed us tonight."
Up Next: Miami
The schedule doesn't get any easier from here for Young & Co.
In five ACC road tests, the Hokies are 2-3. Only one of those — last Wednesday's 62-51 win over Notre Dame — was a dominant performance. The Hokies had a close loss at Louisville and a close win at Wake Forest, but two really poor performances at Syracuse and Pitt.
Tech has trips to Tallahassee, Chapel Hill and Raleigh still left on the docket.
The Hurricanes are on a high after sneaking past Duke in Coral Gables on Monday in a 77-75 win. Previously, Miami (7-10, 3-9 ACC) had lost four straight games.
In the December meeting between the Hokies and 'Canes in Blacksburg, Tech escaped with an 80-78 victory.
Four Miami players scored in double figures and Jim Larrañaga's side dropped 38 points in the paint in the close loss. To add to Tech's subpar defensive effort, Miami shot 54%. The Hokies' saving grace was the 19 turnovers they forced, which slowed the Hurricanes down.
26 points from Aluma, 15 points and nine rebounds from Mutts and 13 and nine from Radford led the way for Tech in that win.
The Hokies engineered a victory, but it'll be a much more difficult task this time around in the Watsco Center, especially coming off a disappointing performance in Pittsburgh.
Nevertheless, Virginia Tech is 3-0 this season after losses, evidence that Young prepares his team to bounce back.
The Hokies need to do just that on Saturday.