Justin Robinson set a career-high in points and broke two school records in No. 8/10 Virginia Tech’s 78-56 rout of Syracuse in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday night. The Hokies, who led by as many as 25 points, improved to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC with the win. The Orange, who never led, dropped to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in league play.
Syracuse came into this game winners of their last three games, including a 95-91 victory against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. They could never get going against a stifling Tech defense, which held the Orange to a 20-of-55 (36.4%) shooting night, including a 9-of-28 (32.1%) mark from three-point range. The Hokies also forced 14 turnovers.
Buzz Williams was pleased with his team’s performance on the defensive end.
“I think our staff does an incredible job trying to filter out what the most important things are to have the best chance to win,” Williams said. “I think our team has continued to morph into a mature and smart team. I thought tonight’s execution on both ends relative to what the staff put in place was as good as it has been this season.”
That terrific defensive effort wasn’t the story of the night, though. Senior guard Justin Robinson stole the show, netting a career-high 35 points while also breaking two school records. Robinson was 9-of-14 from three-point range, and his nine three-pointers in a single game is a new school record. The big one, however, is the Virginia Tech career assist record, which Robinson now owns.
With 2:37 remaining in the blowout, Robinson found freshman Isaiah Wilkins under the basket for an easy layup. That marked assist No. 548 in Robinson’s outstanding career, pushing him past Bimbo Coles as Virginia Tech’s all-time assists leader. Buzz Williams called a timeout less than a minute later and removed Robinson from the game, who got a standing ovation from the crowd in Cassell Coliseum after his records were announced.
“Oh man, it’s a blessing,” Robinson said of his assists record. “I appreciate my teammates, past and current. I think Buzz and the coaching staff, just trusting me and giving me the ball and letting me play through mistakes and play through good things and just learn throughout my career is something that I’m extremely grateful for.”
When Robinson committed to Virginia Tech and Buzz Williams, he committed to a program that had finished in last place in the ACC for three years in a row. Four years later, he’s the school’s all-time assists leader, and he’s on the brink of leading Virginia Tech to the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row for the first time in school history.
“It’s kind of an amazing feeling. We knew when we were getting recruited that we wanted to change things. We didn’t want to go somewhere that was always good. We wanted to be in that core group of original people that brought the program back. I think overall, the group of guys that we’ve had in and out of here, graduating, taking school and academics seriously, it’s kind of who we were, how we were raised as kids.”
Another one of that core group was Ahmed Hill, who originally committed to Buzz Williams at Marquette. He followed Williams to Blacksburg and has had a big role in the turnaround of the program. Hill had 16 points and six rebounds in Saturday night’s win, and was a human highlight reel of open court dunks.
Like everyone else, Hill was impressed with Robinson’s performance on Saturday, as well as his entire career.
“It’s amazing just seeing how much he’s grown,” Hill said. “He’s an incredible player, a total point guard. He’s my teammate, I love him truly. He’s just a great person.”
The Hokies remain unbeaten at home with a perfect 11-0 record. They are one of two ACC teams who are unbeaten at home, with UVA being the other. With one ACC victory on the road against Georgia Tech, the Hokies are now plus-one when it comes to road wins and home losses. They’ll have a chance to go to plus-two, or even plus-three, with their next two games coming on the road.
“Tomorrow we’re going to get ready and focus in on Miami,” Hill said. “Some of us will go in and watch some clips tomorrow and see how they play. On to the next one.”
The Hokies will face the Hurricanes (9-9, 1-5) on Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm, and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
Game Notes From Virginia Tech
The Hokies entered the game ranked 10th in the AP poll and 8th in the USA Today Coaches poll.
Justin Robinson now has 548 career assists, setting a new school record. He passed Malcolm Delaney and Bimbo Coles into first place in tonight’s game. Robinson had eight assists in tonight’s game.
Justin Robinson scored a career-high 35 points. This is his 13th game in double figures this season and his second career 30-plus point game. The 35 points are tied for second for the most points in an ACC game by a Hokie, trailing only Malcolm Delaney’s 37 points against Clemson on Jan. 29, 2009.
Justin Robinson set a new Virginia Tech record with nine three-point field goals in tonight’s game, breaking the old mark held by teammate Ty Outlaw, set in a win over Miami two seasons ago. The nine three-pointers is tied for fourth-best in ACC history.
Ahmed Hill scored 16 points. This is his 13th game in double figures this season.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker dished out a career-high eight assists in the win.
The 22-point margin of victory is the largest for the Hokies against the Orange. The Hokies are now 4-9 all-time against Syracuse.
The Hokies are now 11-0 at home this season, 4-0 in ACC games.