Virginia Tech crushed injury-riddled Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) 93-40 in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to improve to 9-1 on the season. The Hawks, who feature Virginia Tech legend Ace Custis on their bench as an assistant coach, dropped to 3-8.
Custis got a loud ovation from the Hokie crowd before the game began, and Maryland Eastern Shore hung around for the first 10 minutes, trailing just 16-15 at the 12:26 mark of the first half. However, that was as good as it got for the Hawks, who were run out of the gym over the final 32 minutes of the game. UMES came into the game missing several key players due to injury, and the end result was not pretty for them.
First Justin Robinson threw down a breakaway dunk to make the score 18-15, and that was the first bucket in a huge 28-3 run that put Tech up 44-18 with 2:48 left in the first half. The Hokies torched the Hawks with inside scoring and hot outside shooting, and the game was never a contest. Tech led 54-22 at halftime, and never looked back.
Chris Clarke paced the Hokies with 18 points off the bench. He was 7-of-9 from the field, and a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range. Clarke has made 10 three-pointers in his Tech career, and Sunday’s game was his first game with multiple outside makes. He has now made at least one three-pointer in his last four games, and he’s gone 6-of-9 from the outside in that span.
Buzz Williams echoed Clarke’s comments during his postgame interview.
“Chris’s shot has never been ‘broke’ but he hasn’t had the confidence to shoot it,” Williams said. “I do think that he’s been working on it, and the one thing that I just said on the radio that I think speaks to Chris’s character is he’s shooting the ones that he should shoot.”
Freshman wing Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 16 points and eight rebounds, while junior wing Ahmed Hill added 15 points. Justin Bibbs chipped in with 10 points.
As a team, the Hokies were 35-of-64 (54.7%) from the field and 15-of-27 (55.6%) from three-point range. They were also 8-of-11 (72.7%) from the free throw line. Tech committed only six turnovers while dishing out 21 assists, and they outrebounded the overmatched Hawks 42-25. The Hokies had 15 offensive rebounds and turned them into 23 second chance points.
The competition will get much tougher next weekend, as the Hokies travel to Lexington to take on No. 8 Kentucky in Rupp Arena. The Hokies are looking forward to the challenge, but they also recognize that it’s only one game of a long season.
“We’re excited, definitely, because we know it’s a big test,” Clarke said. “But we’re not trying to make it a bigger deal than it is. We’re still going to go in there and do what we do.”
Buzz Williams is looking for an opportunity to boost his team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
“If need be, if a committee member were to look at it and there was some level of separation, there would be someone with some sense that said that we did it. So I called [Kentucky coach John Calipari], we were trying to play in the game they played in yesterday in New York, that’s how it started and it eventually turned into this Saturday. We’re very thankful that [he] agreed to do it.”
Virginia Tech and Kentucky will tip off at 2pm on Saturday, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
Chris Clarke scored 18 points. This is his fourth game in double figures this season. He was 3-3 from three-point range, career-highs in both categories.
Justin Bibbs has now made a three-point field goal in each of the last 24 games in which he has played, the longest current streak in the ACC. Bibbs scored 10 points in the game. He has scored in double figures in all eight games in which he has played this season.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 16 points. It’s the sixth game he has scored in double figures this season. He also recorded a career-high eight rebounds
Ahmed Hill scored 15 points. He has scored in double figures in eight games this season.
The Hokies won, 93-40. The 53-point margin of victory is the largest by a Buzz Williams-coached team. The 40 points scored by Maryland-Eastern Shore are the fewest by an opponent against Virginia Tech since Williams has been the head coach. The 53-point margin is the largest for the Hokies since Jan. 2, 2011, when the Hokies defeated Mount St. Mary’s 99-34. That is also the last game the Hokies held an opponent to 40-or-fewer-points in a game.
The Hawks shot 27.8 percent from the field, a season low for a Tech opponent. They shot 15.4 percent from three-point range, second-lowest of the season. The last time the Hokies held an opponent to a lower field goal percentage in a game was on Nov. 21, 2015, when they held VMI to 25.7 percent from the field. The last time Tech held an opponent to a lower three-point field goal percentage was on March 2, 2016, when Tech held Pitt to 14.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Tech improved to 7-0 at home this season. Tech has won 15 consecutive home, non-conference games.