Virginia Tech and Iowa were tied at 38 at halftime, and the game had all the makings of a tight contest that would be decided in the closing minutes. As it turned out, it was anything but that. The Hokies opened the second half on a huge run and ran the Hawkeyes out of Cassell Coliseum 79-55. Tech improved to 6-1 with the impressive victory, while Iowa dropped to 4-3.
There were two big storylines on Tuesday night. First was the performance of undersized freshman center PJ Horne, who had to play major minutes when starting center Kerry Blackshear picked up his second foul at the 17:56 mark of the first half. Iowa is a big team that focuses on getting the ball in the paint, and it was not ideal for a 6-5 freshman Horne to defend the post for the Hokies.
However, Horne responded by scoring 12 first half points on the way to a career-high 16-point performance in 21 minutes of action.
“It was tremendous for PJ Horne to come in and do what he did,” said redshirt-junior guard Ahmed Hill, who led Tech with 18 points. “I think he pretty much saved the game for us.”
Hill may have exaggerated a bit, as the Hokies never trailed by more than five points, but Horne still had a huge impact.
“When I saw [Blackshear] pick up the second foul, I had to get ready,” Horne said. “I knew I had to get ready to get out there, because I knew they were going to call my name.”
Tech did not play great in the first half, with the major exception of Horne’s offensive performance. Iowa shot 51.7% from the field over the first 20 minutes, and many viewers probably thought the Hokies were a bit lucky for the game to be tied, considering they only shot 40.7% in the opening half.
Cook finally added Iowa’s second field goal of the half, a dunk at the 11:06 mark. However, that dunk only brought the Hawkeyes to within 17 points, at 60-43. Overall, the Hokies kept pouring it on Iowa, leading by as many as 27 points (75-48) with 4:35 remaining in the game. The Hawkeyes were only 7-of-37 (18.9%) from the field in the second half, and at one point they missed 17 consecutive shots. It was easily Virginia Tech’s best defensive half of the season.
Kerry Blackshear played a big role in the second half, once he could finally get off the bench. He had seven points and 10 rebounds for the game, with all seven points and nine of the 10 rebounds coming in the second half. While PJ Horne was very good offensively in the first half, Blackshear’s size, aggression and rebounding ability made things much more difficult in the paint for the Hawkeyes over the final 20 minutes.
“When [Blackshear] was what he was in the second half, that changes our team,” Buzz Williams said. “We need that. We need him to stay out of foul trouble.”
The Hokies needed to be good defensively, because for once they did not shoot the ball particularly well. They were 25-of-58 (43.1%) from the field, and just 7-of-23 (30.4%) from three-point range. As good a shooting team as Tech is, they needed to show that they could buckle down and play defense on a night when their shots weren’t falling, and they did that on Tuesday.
The Hokies have now faced two Power 5 conference teams this season. Besides Tuesday’s 24-point win over Iowa, they also defeated Washington 103-79 earlier in the year in a game they led by 31 at halftime. They’ll have another Power 5 conference test this weekend when they travel to Ole Miss. Tipoff is scheduled for 2pm and the game can be seen online on SEC Network Plus if you are able to view the SEC Network through your cable/satellite provider.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
This is the fourth time Virginia Tech and Iowa have met in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tech is now 4-0 all-time against Iowa.
Tonight’s 79-55 victory is the largest margin of victory in any Big Ten/ACC Challenge game for the Hokies. The previous high was a 95-79 win over the Hawkeyes on Nov. 27, 2012 in Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech is now 5-7 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Hokies have their first-ever two-game winning streak in the Challenge.
PJ Horne scored a career-high 16 points, 12 points coming in the first half. His previous high was 10 points in the season opener against Detroit Mercy.
Justin Bibbs scored 14 points. He has scored in double figures in all five games in which he has played this season.
Bibbs now has 1,145 career points. With his 14 points in tonight’s win, he moves past Coleman Collins (2003-07) into 36th place in career points at Virginia Tech.
Ahmed Hill scored 18 points. He has scored in double figures in all seven games this season.
Chris Clarke scored 12 points. He has scored in double figures in two games this season.
Kerry Blackshear Jr., grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in tonight’s win. He has recorded double figures in rebounds twice this season.