No. 14 Virginia Tech beat South Carolina State 81-44 in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday to improve to 8-1 on the season. The Bulldogs dropped to 2-9.
As dominating as the final score was, Virginia Tech had trouble shaking South Carolina State in the first half, mostly due to poor shooting. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and the Hokies were missing open look after open look. They finally started playing better in the last few moments before halftime, but still led just 34-23 at the intermission. The reason was poor shooting.
One of the best shooting teams in America so far this season, Tech was anything but in the first 20 minutes on Sunday. They were 10-of-29 (34.8%) from the field in the first half, and just 2-of-9 (22.2%) from three-point range. They jumped out to the 11-point lead by going 12-of-15 (80%) from the free throw line in the first half.
The good news is that Tech didn’t let bad shooting affect their work on the defensive end. They limited South Carolina State to 9-of-26 (34.6%) shooting in the first half, including a 1-of-12 (8.3%) mark from the three-point line. That defensive effort didn’t let up in the second half, and the Hokie offense eventually caught fire, leading to a blowout. Here were Tech’s offensive numbers over the final 20 minutes…
FG: 18-of-29 (62.1%)
3Pt: 9-of-15 (60%)
For the game, the Hokies outrebounded the Bulldogs 39-28 and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds. Tech also had 19 assists on 28 made baskets, and forced 19 turnovers while committing 13 themselves.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Hokies with 19 points, and he also had four assists and four steals. Justin Robinson added 16 points, six assists and two steals. Kerry Blackshear had 12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Ahmed Hill was the fourth Tech player in double figures with 10. He started the game 1-of-10 from the field, but made his final two shots, both three-pointers.
South Carolina State’s Damani Applewhite averages 19.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but he had just 10 points and six rebounds against a dominant Tech defense.
The Hokies return to action next Saturday when they face the Washington Huskies in Atlantic City. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
The Hokies entered the game ranked 15th in the AP poll and 14th in the USA Today Coaches poll.
Kerry Blackshear Jr., recorded his fifth career double-double and his first of the season. He finished with 12 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. It is also the team’s season-high in rebounds.
Blackshear’s double-double is the first for the Hokies this season and the first by any Hokie since Justin Robinson had 10 points and 12 assists at Boston College on Jan. 31, 2018.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 19 points. He has scored in double figures in every game this season.
Justin Robinson scored 16 points. He has scored in double figures in eight games this season. He passed Jarell Eddie into 33rd place in career scoring at Virginia Tech. Robinson currently has 1,195 career points.
Ahmed Hill scored 10 points, the sixth time this season he has scored in double figures.
Virginia Tech recorded 19 assists, the eighth time in nine games this season the Hokies have been in double figures in assists. They have had at least 19 assists in six of the nine games.
Tech held South Carolina State to 44 points. It is the third time in the last five games Tech has held its opponent to less than 50 points.