Virginia Tech defeated USC Upstate 80-57 on Wednesday night to move to 3-0 on the season. The Spartans dropped to 1-3.
For the third consecutive game, the story was the Hokies’ defense. USC Update had a poor shooting night, going just 20-of-53 (37.7%) from the field and only 3-of-25 (12%) from three-point range. They were 0-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young was quick to point out that while he loves Tech’s effort, they are still very inexperienced and seeing many things for the first time.
“I like their want to and their willingness,” Young said. “They’re trying their tails off to do what we ask. We had some guys in some wrong spots. Here’s the deal, Nahiem Alleyne is going to be a really good player. Hunter Cattoor, too. There is no substitute for experience, no substitute for seeing plays. They play what we call ‘falcon action.’ It’s the first time we’ve seen the play. We practiced the fire out of it over the last two days. We got better at it as the night wore on.”
Virginia Tech started the game slowly but eventually took control. The lead changed six times early in the contest, and there were two ties. A three-pointer by Jalen Cone with 8:23 remaining in the first half made the score 19-18 Hokies, and the Spartans were never able to regain the lead. Cone, a true freshman, had a career-high 11 points.
Leading the charge offensively yet again was redshirt freshman wing Landers Nolley, who had 23 points and six rebounds. It was the second time in his first three games that he has led the team in scoring. He was 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. He also had three assists and a steal as the offense continued to run through him.
“Your better players are going to get the better of the shots. This isn’t a democracy. This isn’t, ‘we’re all created equal.’ Those good ones, they love playing for me. We get them where they want to be. As great as a homerun hitter Mickey Mantle was, he struck out some. I’m not comparing Landers to Mick, but you’ve got more of a green light than some others. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Young was upset about his team’s turnovers after the first two games of the season, but after three quick turnovers against the Spartans, the Hokies settled down and committed only eight for the game.
The one negative aspect was rebounding, specifically defensive rebounding. USC Upstate outrebounded Tech 33-31, and they had eight offensive rebounds in the first half, though that number was cut to just two in the second half.
Young was particularly upset about those offensive rebounds in the first half, and he let the team know how he felt at halftime.
“We did a better job in the second half. But if we expect to win a number of games, needless to say, we’re going to have to do a better job in that regard. Eight offensive rebounds against someone in our league will prove to be costly.”
Virginia Tech has two more tuneup games with Lehigh and Delaware State before departing for the Maui Invitational. They’ll host Lehigh this Saturday in Cassell Coliseum at 1:30pm. The game can be seen online on ACC Network Extra.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
- Virginia Tech improves to 3-0 on the season and is 1-0 in ACC play.
- Virginia Tech has now started the season off 3-0 for the second straight year. In 2018-2019, the Hokies started 5-0 before falling to Penn State 63-62 on the road.
- Tech leads the all-time series 2-1 over USC Upstate following the Wednesday night victory. USC Upstate last beat Tech 64-63 in 2013. Tech last beat USC Upstate in 64-53 in 2010. All games in this series have been played in Blacksburg.
- UP NEXT: The Hokies will stay in Blacksburg to face off against Lehigh (2-1) on Saturday at Cassell Coliseum.
- Virginia Tech used the starting lineup of Wabissa Bede, Tyrece Radford, P.J. Horne, Landers Nolley II, and Nahiem Alleyne. It marked Tyrece Radford’s first career start. The Hokies have now gone with three different starting lineups for the first three games.
- KEY FIRST HALF RUN: It was just a five-point contest at 25-20 late in the first half. At the 5:17 mark, Tyrece Radford scored back-to-back lay-ins and found Nahiem Alleyne in the corner who was fouled shooting a three. That sequence sparked a 13-4 run to close the first half and make the score 38-24 entering the break.
- KEY SECOND HALF RUN: Four straight 3-pointers on the offensive side for Tech at the beginning of the second half help keep the lead. Wabissa Bede, Hunter Cattoor and Lander Nolley all hit 3s during that stretch. The Hokies then led by just nine points at the 11:18 mark in the second half. P.J. Horne scored twice in the paint, which would start a 13-0 run for Tech, extending its lead to 65-43.
- The Hokies nailed 13 triples, which is the team’s most of the season. Tech last hit 11 three-pointers against Coppin State.
- Hunter Cattoor notched his career high in points with nine. Cattoor shot 3-of-6 from behind the arc, marking his career high in 3s made as well.
- Landers Nolley led the team in scoring for the second game this season with 23 points on the night. He previously recorded 30 points against Clemson, which was a team high as well.
- Jalen Cone notched his career high in points with 11 on the night. Cone shot 4-for-5 from the field and 3-of-3 from the 3-point line. This was Cone’s career high in 3s made.
- Wabissa Bede dished out eight assists on the night. Bede had ten assists against Coppin State, totaling to 18 over a two-game stretch.
- John Ojiako notched career high in three categories, with two blocks, three rebounds and two steals.