It was a strange game full of mistakes, but No. 20 Virginia Tech (11-2, 5-1) found a way to win on the road and take down Wake Forest (3-5, 0-5), 64-60.
“It was just one of those games where you have to dig down and give everything you could muster and find a way to get out of a place such as this,” Head Coach Mike Young said. “There’s no such thing as a bad road win in the ACC.”
The Hokies had 15 turnovers, gave up 16 second-chance points and shot just 22% from beyond the arc. It also didn’t help that the Hokies’ top-two scorers on the season, Keve Aluma and Jalen Cone, shot a combined 1-of-10 and only had five points, all from Aluma.
“They weren’t good tonight, and they would be the first to recognize that,” Young said. “They had a tough night, and I credit the Demon Deacons. They were chasing Jalen as hard as he’s been chased, so he couldn’t get unglued and going.”
“I just continue to do what I do,” Radford said. “Like I said, the first half, my other teammates’ shots weren’t going [in] that normally go [in] and I just had to pick up what I was doing and bring the team along.”
Radford also hit six free throws in the final minute to seal the victory, going 8-of-9 at the stripe on the night.
“I’m very confident knowing that the work I’ve put in, every day after practice and during the summer, pays off,” Radford said. “Even after lifting weights, I’d go shoot off the weights with free throws. Not threes, not mid-ranges, I shoot off the weights with free throws, so it’s going to continue to pay off.”
His biggest shot of the day came with just over four minutes left as he drained a three in front of the Hokies’ bench to extend the Tech lead back to five after Wake had outscored the Hokies 17-9 over the last nine minutes.
“He really picked up our wagon. We were up two and he hit a big shot off of a play with a great screen from Keve,” Young said. “It’s truly a team. They don’t care who gets the credit, and that’s a fun group to be a part of.”
The surprise of the night came from freshman David N’Guessan, who had played sparingly and was averaging under two points per game. The young forward from The Netherlands made all five shots he took against the Demon Deacons, including three and-ones. He tied with Cattoor for second on the team in scoring with 13 points, a career high.
“I came in the game looking to help the team and make the right plays; and that’s what I did,” N’Guessan said. “My teammates found me and got me the ball in the right spot.”
Tech’s defense was dominant in the first half, holding Wake to just 22% shooting from the floor. The Hokies had a block party in the paint with nine denials in the first 20 minutes, four coming from Aluma.
The issues for the Hokies early on came on the defensive glass. Wake ripped down 11 offensive boards before halftime, racking up 16 total on the night. The Demon Deacons’ work on the boards and the Hokies’ turnover issues allowed Wake to take 14 more shots than Tech on one fewer possession.
“That’s a big emphasis for our program is to take care of the ball, you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win, so those numbers are upside down,” Young said. “We’re usually a good rebounding team night-in and night-out, too, and Wake Forest is not very big. They just carved our rear-ends up.”
In the second half, Wake found a rhythm offensively. The Deacs scored 37 points and shot over 50% in the final 20 minutes, making the Hokies sweat until the final whistle sounded.
Wake’s leading scorer was Ismael Massoud, who knocked down three deep three-pointers on his way to 12 points. The Hokies were able to hold the Deacs’ leading scorers, Daivien Williamson and Isaiah Mucius, to just 21 total points on 7-of-20 shooting.
Tech escaped Winston-Salem with its first road win of the year and its fifth ACC win, good for second in the conference. Virginia is the only other team with five league wins after beating Clemson on the road on Saturday.
“That’s where we’re supposed to be,” Young said. “We’re Virginia Tech.”
The Hokies now return home with a chance to improve their record against a struggling Boston College team on Wednesday night.. The Eagles are 1-6 in the ACC after losing at Notre Dame on Saturday. It took Tech until February 15 to get its sixth conference victory last season.