Virginia Tech gives North Carolina its fourth straight loss

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Justyn Mutts scored 27 points on Sunday to lead the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team to an 80-72 win over No. 18 North Carolina.

Mutts scored 21 of his second-half points for the Hokies (8-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who built an 18-point lead in the second half and then held up against the collapsing Tar Heels (5-4 , 0-1) their fourth loss in a row.

“I’ve told the guys I’m disappointed, but I’m not discouraged,” said North Carolina coach Hubert Davis. I also told them not to panic. I’m none of that. This is a good basketball team and I have no doubts that we will be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

North Carolina cut the lead to 67-64 after a layup by Caleb Love with 3:06 minutes remaining, but Mutts responded with a basket 17 seconds later and the Tar Heels couldn’t get any closer.

“When it got to three, we sat down and did the things that we were supposed to be doing,” said Virginia Tech coach Mike Young.[There was] a certain level of tenacity and a certain level of determination when things get a little hot and they withstood it. They did a good job with that.

“We needed today. We needed the Tar Heels, someone like that, to play. That increased awareness and embracing the grit and grind that comes with winning games of this nature. It was a good day for the Hokies.’

Associated Press, North Carolina’s No. 1 preseason team played without center Armando Bacot, who missed the game with a bruised shoulder. The ACC Preseason Player of the Year started 107 of 108 games during his career and averaged 16.1 points and 11.1 rebounds as team-best.

Virginia Tech, and Mutts in particular, took advantage of Bacot’s absence. Mutts hit 12 of 16 from the floor and he also grabbed 11 rebounds. Behind Mutts, the Hokies fired 50.8% (31 of 61) from the ground.

“It’s just my teammates and my coaches that put so much faith in me, just that much faith in me,” Mutts said. “A lot of that is the play calls that happen and then in different play flows. Especially with the way our offense is going, there were certain opportunities that I was able to use that really stood me in good stead.

The Tar Heels have shown a lack of internal toughness of late. Indiana and Alabama scored 50 and 40 points in the color, respectively, and then North Carolina allowed the Hokies 42 points in the color.

Love, Pete Nance and RJ Davis each scored 18 for North Carolina.

Though all four losses during that slide occurred at either neutral venues or on the road, North Carolina is likely to drop out of the top 25 when the updated poll is released Monday.

The reigning ACC champions, meanwhile, have put in their best game of the season and seem to be coming together as a team. Virginia Tech has now won three straight games after losing to the College of Charleston on November 20th.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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