They also welcomed back guard Tyrece Radford, who had been serving a suspension since Jan. 25 stemming from an off-the-court legal matter. The third-year sophomore reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup, but Radford and his teammates were unable to craft an uplifting reunion in a 69-53 loss.
“We came through a tough stretch,” Hokies Coach Mike Young said. “Georgia Tech’s had the same stretch. We’ve all lived it, okay? Bottom line, got beat by a better team tonight. I thought for the first time in recent memory, or golly it’s been a long time, I thought we lost our edge a little bit. I thought we got hit in the stomach, and we stepped away from it, and that is unlike our team.”
The difference was the Yellow Jackets’ 12-0 flurry early in the second half that opened a 41-28 lead. Virginia Tech got within seven points minutes later but faded the rest of the way to fall further out of contention for the top seed in the ACC tournament.
The Hokies (14-5, 8-4) remain in third place with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season and would need first-place Florida State to stumble badly down the stretch. They also would have to overtake second-place Virginia, which has played two more ACC games.
The extended hiatus left Virginia Tech ragged Tuesday night, when it had 16 turnovers, 11 of which came in the first half. The Yellow Jackets (12-8, 8-6) had 19 points off turnovers to win a second straight ACC game on the road for the first time since 2011.
“That rhythm that you have in actually playing against another team, that’s something that you’ve got to be in the flow of for it to really kick in,” Virginia Tech guard Justyn Mutts said.
“But I’m not blaming this loss at all, 0 percent, on the fact that we just came back from that break. I thought we didn’t play our best tonight.”
Keve Aluma and Nahiem Alleyne each had a team-high 12 points for Virginia Tech but combined to shoot 8 for 27 while playing elevated minutes. Aluma did manage game highs of 14 rebounds, including seven offensive, and five assists in 35 minutes.
Two other Hokies played at least 34 minutes, including Radford, who in the early-morning hours of Jan. 24 was pulled over by Blacksburg police. He was charged with driving under the influence and carrying a concealed weapon.
Young placed Radford on indefinite suspension the next day. He was found guilty Feb. 3 in Montgomery County District Court of the DUI offense, pleaded no contest to the weapons charge and missed four games.
“We followed the process and procedures of the [athletic] department, and he was a champion throughout, did exactly what he was supposed to do, and here he is,” Young said. “I’m proud of him with how he has handled himself.”
Several weeks into the suspension, Young had announced Radford might be able to rejoin the team but did not disclose what requirements that would entail. Radford traveled with the Hokies on Feb. 5 to Coral Gables, Fla., for the first time since his suspension began but did not play against Miami. Virginia Tech’s next five games were postponed, with only one against Louisville rescheduled so far. It’s unclear whether any of the conference games the Hokies have missed will be added before the final weekend of the regular season.
“He’s an amazing player,” Mutts said of Radford. “He’s Mr. Do Everything. There’s nothing on the court he can’t do, so having him back out there, it’s awesome.”
Radford finished with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and two assists against Georgia Tech, which shot 61.5 percent in the second half and got a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds from Moses Wright.
The senior forward made 9 of 11 shots and had his way in the painted area and at the rim, outmuscling multiple defenders for dunks and frequently scoring through contact. His dunk with 14:24 to play put the Yellow Jackets in front 38-28.
Jose Alvarado chipped in 13 points and five steals for Georgia Tech, and Michael Devoe had 12 points.
“We’re not cutting ourselves any slack,” Aluma said. “They came out, and they competed, and they wanted it more than us, but definitely just trying to get back in the swing of things.”