The Virginia Tech Hokies returned to the postseason tonight for the first time since 2011 in the NIT with a home game against the Princeton Tigers. The Tigers played almost as well as they seemed they could play while the Hokies were not on their game but the Hokies showed how much progress they made in how they were able to find a way to win even if that required five extra minutes.
Virginia Tech beat Princeton 86-81 in overtime to advance to the second round of the NIT where they will travel to Provo, Utah to take on the second-seeded BYU Cougers with the winner hosting the quarterfinal of the St. Bonaventure region after Wagner pulled off an upset over the number 1 seed from the Atlantic 10.
The Hokies shot only 70.6% from the free-throw line, but made big free throws in overtime and will need to shoot as well as they did at the charity stripe in overtime when they travel to BYU. The Hokies also shot only 23.5% from beyond the arc, but held Princeton to only 28.5% from beyond the arc and will need to keep the sharpshooting Cougars under 30% from deep.
Virginia Tech did give up 9 offensive rebounds, but the Hokies won the offensive rebounding battle 13-9 and the overall rebounding battle 45-36. BYU is averaging over 40 rebounds per game this season, and the Hokies will have to continue to do well on the glass against a BYU team where getting second chances will make a difference if they get them.
Zach LeDay was one of the two stars of the night for the Hokies as the junior forward had 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 9-of-14 shooting from the charity stripe along with 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and 1 steal. LeDay had a very strong night overall other than on the defensive end and at the free-throw line, but LeDay once again showed how effort makes just as big of difference as talent at the collegiate level.
Jalen Hudson had his best game in months with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting and 6-of-9 from the free-throw line plus 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Hudson’s effort hasn’t always consistent, but Hudson gave it his all tonight and with most of the backcourt struggling offensively, Hudson’s big night made a huge difference on the game and if keeps it up, makes the Hokies very dangerous at BYU.
Seth Allen struggled for most of the night, but found a rhythm in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime on his way to 10 points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers. The Hokies will need Allen to bounce back quickly in Provo after having an off night tonight.
Justin Robinson was a non-factor in what was one of his worst games all season with only 1 rebound all night though I would expect that the freshman point guard will be much better in Provo compared to tonight. Justin Bibbs only had 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting along with going only 1-of-6 from beyond the arc on a night in which the sophomore wing just couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm from deep though made a big impact on the glass with 7 rebounds.
Chris Clarke brought plenty of toughness and had another strong game rebounding the basketball with 8 rebounds along with 6 points and 2 assists while Kerry Blackshear made a minor impact with 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block. Devin Wilson had 5 points including an incredible three that made the SportsCenter 11pm edition Top 10 along with having 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 rebound while Shane Henry started but only played two minutes.
The Hokies did not have their best night, but found a way to win against a Princeton team that gave the Hokies just about everything they had. Now, the Hokies will have to improve ahead of a tough trip out west to Provo against a BYU team that’s coming off a blowout of UAB. The task at hand will be challenging for the Hokies but this team has already surprised plenty of people getting to 20 wins.