In a game very similar to the Notre Dame contest on Tuesday, No. 10 Virginia Tech got off to a slow start, but played much better in the second half in a 77-66 victory over Boston College. The Hokies improved to 13-1 overall, and 2-0 in the ACC. BC dropped to 9-4, and they are 0-1 in ACC play.
Tech led Notre Dame 30-28 at halftime, and trailed Boston College 32-30. They went on to outscore the Irish 51-38 in the second half, and then beat up on the Eagles 47-34 over the final 20 minutes as well. The Hokies struggled offensively in the first half in each game, but their newfound strength – defense – helped keep them in each game until the offense woke up.
“We just knew that if we kept defending well, then our shots would fall in the second half,” sophomore guard Wabissa Bede said.
Bede defended well for the entire 40 minutes. He was tasked with defending star BC guard Ky Bowman. Bowman finished with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and he turned the ball over five times.
“I thought this was Wabissa Bede’s best game of his college career,” Buzz Williams said. “He had only two fouls and he is guarding one of the best offensive 6-5 and under players in the country. You could not take Bede off the floor. Bede is strong, so he can’t get knocked off his line, completely understands what we are trying to do in cover two and watches a lot of tape. He is one of those kids that grew up with not a lot, and so in his free time he is always studying the game of other players. He just loves ball and he is comfortable in his own skin in what he does best is guard the ball. I think that is unique.”
As a team, Boston College shot just 39.6% from the field and 29.6% from three-point range.
The Hokies had an off night from the outside, shooting only 6-of-22 (27.3%) from the outside. However, they still managed to go 46.3% from the field overall. Kerry Blackshear had his second consecutive 20-point game, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds. However, it was sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker who stole the show.
Playing in front of at least one NBA scout, Alexander-Walker finished with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He was also strong on the defensive end of the court with two blocks and two steals in 37 minutes.
“I just went with the flow,” Alexander-Walker said. “Just a different game. Whatever is required. Early, I felt like I could get to the basket, so I tried to do that. I tried to put pressure on the defense, and I just tried to stay within my lane.”
Alexander-Walker believes that the team’s togetherness is a big reason why they have been able to overcome tough starts against Notre Dame and Boston College, as well as earlier this year against Purdue.
“When things don’t go well, collectively we don’t spread out, we come together and we fix it as a team. We don’t point fingers. It’s ‘we’ and ‘us’ and we’re only going to move forward from that. I think that’s what helps us in the second half.”
Senior point guard Justin Robinson had a tough first half for Virginia Tech with a couple of early turnovers and some questionable decisions with the ball in his hands, but he rebounded to play well in the second half. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. With Robinson and the guards rebounding well on Saturday, the Hokies were able to get into transition much more quickly, which helped them on the offensive end in the second half.
BC head coach Jim Christian was very complimentary of Robinson after the game.
“The guy that no one talks about from their team, and everybody should be talking about him, is Justin Robinson. Our whole game plan was to make him uncomfortable. He’s the best point guard in the country of finding the right guy and hitting him at the right time.”
Tech once again won the turnover battle (12-11), but they also dominated the Eagles on the glass 39-25. The Hokies pulled down 10 offensive rebounds and outscored BC 8-1 in second chance points, which is a rare occurrence in ACC play for this team. Tech also had 22 fastbreak points to BC’s six, and outscored the Eagles 36-14 in the paint.
The only negative news of the day is that Buzz Williams said following the game that senior wing Chris Clarke and freshman forward Landers Nolley would not play this season. He did not go into detail about either player.
Virginia Tech will return to action on Wednesday, January 9 when they travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised by 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.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 25 points. He has scored in double figures in all 13 games in which he has played this season. This is his seventh game of 20-or-more-points. The 25 points is a new high for Alexander-Walker in ACC action.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 20 points, the 12th time this season he has scored in double figures. This is the second time this season he has scored at least 20 points in a game.
Justin Robinson scored 12 points, the 11th time this season he has scored in double figures. His eight rebounds tied his career-high.
This is the second time this season the Hokies have trailed at the half. Tech is now 2-0 this season when trailing at the half.
Virginia Tech is 13-1 for the first time since the 1982-83 season, when Tech opened the season 14-1.
The Hokies are 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since the 2015-16 season and for the second time under Buzz Williams. This is just the third time since joining the ACC in the 2004-05 season that the Hokies have started 2-0 in the league.
Tech has now won eight consecutive games for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
The Hokies were 21-of-25 from the free throw line in the game, season-highs in both categories, as was the Hokies’ 84.0 percent from the line. Tech’s 39 rebounds are the second-highest total for the team this season.