No. 16 Virginia Tech defeated No. 23 Purdue 89-83 in the Championship Game of the Charleston Classic on Sunday night. The Hokies are now 4-0 on the season, while the Boilermakers dropped to 4-1.
This was Virginia Tech’s first tournament championship since they won the Holiday Classic in Madison Square Garden back in the 2007-08 season. However, they only had to win two games to win that tournament, and the competition was Hofstra and St. John’s. The Hokies had to navigate three teams to win the Charleston Classic, and beat a ranked team in the Championship Game.
Virginia Tech fell behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, but they found a way back into the game in the second half. Their backcourt trio of Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Ahmed Hill was the difference in the game, with all three of those players putting up huge numbers.
Alexander-Walker: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Robinson: 23 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Hill: 23 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Alexander-Walker and Hill played all 40 minutes, while Robinson played 39.
Those three players jumpstarted yet another dominating offensive performance from Buzz Williams’ team. Virginia Tech was 30-of-55 (54.5%) from the field, 10-of-24 (41.7%) from the three-point line, and 19-of-26 (73.1%) from the charity stripe. The Hokies made more free throws (19) than Purdue attempted (11). Tech shot 18-28 (64.3%), including 6-of-9 from three point range, in the second half.
Another important statistic was rebounding. Though the Hokies were outrebounded 33-28, they weren’t dominated by the bigger Boilermakers and their 7’3” Dutch center Matt Haarms. In fact, Haarms did not score and had only two rebounds. He entered the game averaging 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Haarms’ performance is even more puzzling when you consider the fact that Kerry Blackshear spent most of the game in foul trouble. Virginia Tech’s redshirt junior center picked up his second foul just eight minutes into the game, and his third foul less than a minute into the second half. He did not have a big impact on the game until late in the contest. However, he still managed to finish with 13 points despite playing only 17 minutes, and he made some critical plays for Tech down the stretch. He was 7-of-11 from the free throw line.
Virginia Tech was very good in the turnover category yet again. Though they only forced 13 Purdue turnovers, they had just 10 turnovers themselves, and they outscored the Boilermakers 19-8 in points off turnovers. They also limited Purdue to just seven second chance points.
With four minutes remaining in the first half, things didn’t look promising for Virginia Tech. Purdue led 41-29 after a shot by Carsen Edwards, who was the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. However, the Hokies toughened up on the defensive end to close out the first half, and found themselves down just eight, 44-36, at halftime. That was an acceptable margin, considering Blackshear’s foul trouble and how poorly the team had played defensively in the first 20 minutes.
The second half belonged to Virginia Tech. The Hokies took their first lead with 12:33 remaining when Nickeil Alexander-Walker drilled a three-pointer from the left wing off a fastbreak assist from Ahmed Hill. That put Tech up 58-56, and though Purdue was able to tie the game twice after that, they were never able to retake the lead. Virginia Tech did a decent enough job of making their free throws down the stretch, and they held on for the 89-83 win.
After the win, sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker was named the MVP of the Charleston Classic. He has scored 20 points or more in all four games this season, and is averaging 21.8 points per game.
Look for the Hokies to move up from their No. 16 ranking when the new polls are released. No. 15 Syracuse lost two games in Madison Square Garden over the weekend, No. 13 Oregon was defeated by Iowa, and No. 8 Villanova lost to Michigan 73-56 and then got upset by Furman.
Virginia Tech will return to action this Saturday, November 24, when they host Saint Francis (PA). Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm, and the game can be seen online on ACC Network Extra.