No. 16 Virginia Tech (15-5, 9-4) was a runaway train from the opening tip on Saturday afternoon against Wake Forest (6-13, 3-13) as the Hokies blazed their way to an 84-46 victory.
“This is as enjoyable as any team that I’ve been a part of in quite some time,” Head Coach Mike Young said. “They’re good dudes, responsible and conscientious. There’s not one that’s going to rattle the cage around here. There’s personal accountability, and they have high expectations of one another.”
The 38-point victory smashed the Hokies’ record for largest margin of victory against an ACC team. The Demon Deacons were on the receiving end of the previous record-setting game when Tech beat Wake by 29 in January of 2011.
The Hokies are now 5-0 following a loss this season with this bounce back victory. Following its 17-day layoff due to COVID protocols, Virginia Tech looked sloppy in a 16-point loss to Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. The performance on Saturday was pristine as the Hokies look to have reawakened following the time off.
From the word go, Tech immediately pulled ahead by starting the game with a 14-3 run. Wake was able to steady the deficit at 13 points with just five minutes left in the first half, then the Hokies really turned on the jets.
The Hokies scored the next 19 points up until the 18-minute mark of the second half. In the first half, the Hokies shot just under 70% from the floor. Overall, Tech scored 25 of the next 26 to put the lead at 37 and never looked back.
“Our body language was so good, and we had a crispness to our passing and our cutting,” Young said. “Everything is better when the ball goes in the hole. You feel better about how you play when you get a bunch to go in the basket.”
Keve Aluma led the way for the Hokies with 23 points as he continues to prove that he is one of the best players in the conference. Surprisingly, most of his production didn’t come from the paint, but instead from long range. Aluma was perfect from beyond the arc with a career-high five made three-pointers.
Overall, the Hokies didn’t miss many times from deep. Tech shot 13-of-24 (54.2%) on three-point attempts, blazing after a performance against the Yellow Jackets where the Hokies only attempted just 14 shots from long range, and made only five.
Tyrece Radford contributed two of those triples, which haven’t been common during his time in Blacksburg. It was another solid performance for Radford in just his second game back from suspension. Radford posted 15 points to go with eight rebounds and looks to be a full go after a month away from competition.
It was also Senior Day in Cassell Coliseum as Wabissa Bede and Cordell Pemsl were honored before the game. Both players made contributions as Pemsl added four points while Bede turned in a five-point and five-assist game. Bede is the only Hokies player who is still in Blacksburg following the coaching transition from Buzz Williams and has surely left his mark on the program in his four years with the team.
“This is not fluff and I really mean this; [Bede] is the most important person that I’ve had here in my brief time here,” Young said. “I had to recruit him, and there was no guarantee that he was going to stay, he didn’t owe me anything. He is an unbelievable teammate, he loves Virginia Tech, he is an easy person to play with and he’s an easy person to coach.”
“We really needed to have that type of dynamic game defensively,” Young said. “Everything was contested, and they felt our team. We talk about that a lot. They have to feel us, and Wake Forest certainly felt us today. I felt really good about it.”
This victory helps the Hokies keep pace in the ACC with just one week remaining in the regular season. Tech is holding firm in third place and has the inside track at a double bye in the ACC Tournament. However, currently five teams sit within one game of the Hokies including Wednesday’s opponent, Louisville.
“We’ve never beaten Louisville since becoming an ACC member,” Young said. “We’ve got a lot on the line, so we have three pivotal days of preparation and we’ll turn our attention to the Cardinals right away.”
Tech will have to face Louisville without Jalen Cone who will miss the remainder of the regular season with an ankle injury he suffered against Miami. Young said that he hopes to have him back for the ACC Tournament, but that’s yet to be determined.
A win over the Cardinals would put the Hokies one step closer to clinching a trip to the quarterfinals in Greensboro. Tech fell at the buzzer to Louisville on the road back in early January, 73-71. The Hokies will get an opportunity to even the season series on Wednesday before heading on the road to face NC State in the season finale.