No. 13 Virginia Tech got off to a slow start, but eventually hammered North Carolina A&T 82-60 to move to 10-1 on the season. The Aggies dropped to 4-7.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was one of five Virginia Tech players to score in double figures. He led the Hokies with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and he also had four steals. Kerry Blackshear nearly recorded a double-double, with 17 points and nine rebounds. Justin Robinson had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Ahmed Hill had 11 points and seven rebounds. PJ Horne pitched in off the bench with 13 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.
Alexander-Walker continues to show why he was one of the most highly-touted recruits in Virginia Tech history. Buzz Williams credits assistant coach Devin Johnson with much of Alexander-Walker’s development.
“He spends a lot of time studying the finer, most minute details of the game and has an incredible way to articulate those things and then turn them into a drill,” Williams said. “Our guys, especially Nickeil, just eat it up.”
The Hokies were 30-of-61 (49.2%) from the field and 7-of-20 (35%) from three-point range. They were also 15-of-17 (88.2%) from the free throw line. They outrebounded North Carolina A&T 42-20, pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, and had 21 second chance points. Tech also forced 14 turnovers and scored 16 points off of those turnovers.
Tech wasn’t perfect, however. They got off to a slow start because of turnovers. Though they finished the game with 14 assists and 12 turnovers, at one point in the first half they had just one assist compared to six turnovers. As a result, this was still a single-digit game late in the first half before the Hokies scored the final five points to take a 36-23 lead into the halftime intermission.
Virginia Tech’s performance in the second half was much better, as they led by as many as 28 points (71-43) with 7:07 remaining. Despite the poor first half performance, the Hokies never let up on the defensive end.
“It has morphed a little bit (since last season),” Williams said, “but the base principles are the exact same.”
The main difference is that the Hokies are executing on the defensive end at a much higher rate than they did a year ago. On December 19, 2017, Virginia Tech’s defensive efficiency ranked No. 67 in the country. On December 19, 2018, their defensive efficiency ranks No. 7 nationally.
The Hokies will get a quick break and take a couple of days off for Christmas before reconvening in Blacksburg next week. They will play their final non-conference game of the season next Friday, December 28, against Maryland-Eastern Shore. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game can be seen online on ACC Network Extra.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
The Hokies entered the game ranked 13th in the AP Poll the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 20 points, and has now scored in double figures in every game this season. He has scored 20 or more points in six of the 11 games this season. He also recorded a team-high four steals.
Kerry Blackshear, Jr. scored 17 points, the ninth time this season he has scored in double figures. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Justin Robinson scored 14 points, the ninth time this season he has scored in double figures.
Ahmed Hill scored 11 points, the eighth time this season he has scored in double figures. Hill passed Coleman Collins into 38th place in career scoring at Virginia Tech.
PJ Horne scored 13 points, his second game this season in double figures.
The Hokies grabbed a season-high 42 rebounds. That’s the most rebounds in a game for the Hokies since grabbing 42 rebounds in the win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 10, 2017. The last time the Hokies had more than 42 rebounds in a game was 51 rebounds against The Citadel on Nov. 12, 2017.
The Hokies have now won 23 consecutive non-conference regular season home games, tying the school record, set twice, most recently in 2009.