No. 10 Virginia Tech got a big second half offensive explosion to beat Notre Dame 81-66 in Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon. The Hokies improved to 12-1 overall, and they’ve opened ACC play with a 1-0 record. The Irish dropped to 10-4 and 0-1.
Virginia Tech led 30-28 at halftime, and things didn’t resemble a typical Virginia Tech game. Then the Hokies broke out of their offensive funk in the second half, scoring 51 points, while still applying plenty of pressure defensively. For the game, Tech scored 81 points on just 61 possessions, and they continue to be one of the nation’s best offensive teams.
“I am so impressed with Virginia Tech,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “They are old, spread you out, and make shots. They are really, really good.”
Four Virginia Tech players reached double figures. Junior forward Kerry Blackshear led the way with 21 points. He was 9-of-18 from the field, and he was very difficult for the Irish to handle in the paint. Senior guard Ahmed Hill had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker also had 17 and continued to look like one of college basketball’s best NBA prospects. Senior forward Ty Outlaw came off the bench to score 14.
Each of those players were critical at various stages of the game, and they helped offset an off day from Justin Robinson, who scored just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting. However, he did dish out eight assists. Having so many different players who can score in double figures is one of the keys to Virginia Tech’s success.
“I think that being able to say that is rare,” Buzz Williams said. “But I think that humility and the care that each of the other three have for the one is why it works, and I think that is even more rare. There are a lot of teams that have really good players, better than the players we have, but the symmetry and togetherness of the group is what I think is very unique.”
As a team, the Hokies were 33-of-55 (60%) from the field and 11-of-18 (61.1%) from three-point range. However, those numbers were even more impressive in the second half when Tech was 20-of-28 (71.4%) from the field and 8-of-9 (88.9%) from three-point range.
Tech got a boost when Notre Dame’s 6-11 forward Juwan Durham got into foul trouble. He has 43 blocked shots on the season, and he blocked four in just 14 minutes against the Hokies. However, with him on the bench for the majority of the game, Kerry Blackshear was able to have his way in the post, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker was able to finish very well around the basket. Durham eventually fouled out.
Virginia Tech’s own continued defensive improvement was another reason for the big win. The Irish shot just 41.1% from the field, and 38.2% from the outside. The Hokies were able to limit Notre Dame’s ability to get the ball inside, and forced them into taking 38 three-pointers, many of which weren’t particularly good shots. Tech outscored Notre Dame 34-14 in the paint despite being the smaller team.
“I think they’re a really good defensive team,” Brey said. “They’re not big back there, but they’re up in you, and their hands are so good. So, by the time you do get some open shots, you’re almost exhausted because you had to move the ball against their ball pressure.”
Notre Dame led just once – 2-0 after their first possession of the game. After that, the Hokies remained in control, though they didn’t ice the game until fairly late. Kerry Blackshear hit a three-pointer at the 6:57 mark that put the Hokies up by 10, 63-53. That shot started an 11-0 run that was capped by a Ty Outlaw three-pointer with 5:14 remaining to make the score 71-53. Tech led by double figures for the remainder of the game, and they began the ACC portion of their schedule in successful style.
Virginia Tech returns to action this Saturday when they host Boston College in Cassell Coliseum. The Eagles are 9-3 on the season, though they were upset by Hartford on Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for noon, and the game can be seen on RSN. Check your local listings.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
The Hokies entered the game ranked 10th in the AP poll the USA Today Coaches poll.
Today’s game was the first ACC conference game of the season.
Kerry Blackshear Jr., led all scorers with a season-high 21 points. This is his 11th game in double figures this season and his first of 20-or-more-points.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 17 points. He has now scored in double figures in all 12 games he has played this season. He missed the last game with a sprained right ankle.
Ahmed Hill scored 17 points, the 10th time this season he has scored in double figures.
Ty Outlaw scored 14 points. This is the fourth time this season that he has scored in double figures.
Justin Robinson finished with eight assists. In doing so, he passed Jamon Gordon and moved into third place in career assists at Virginia Tech. He now has 521 career assists.
This was the Hokies’ first-ever win over Notre Dame in Cassell Coliseum. Tech is now 1-4 against the Fighting Irish in Cassell.
Tech shot 60.0 percent from the floor, including 61.1 percent from three-point range. That is the highest field goal percentage against ACC competition since Tech shot 63.5 percent in a home win over NC State last season. The 61.1 percent from three-point range is the highest against ACC competition since the Hokies shot 66.7 percent from three in the win at Boston College on Feb. 25, 2017.
The Hokies attempted five free throws today (made four), the second-fewest of the season. Tech was 2-of-4 from the line in the win over Northeastern.