The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team started off the fourth season of the Buzz Williams regime in Blacksburg with a 111-79 win over Detroit Mercy who hail from the Horizon League.
True freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Hokies with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Alexander-Walker was 4 of 7 from behind the arc and finished with four rebounds and four assists to complete a very good debut performance. Kerry Blackshear added on 23 points as he was 7-10 from the field. Blackshear also made the one three-pointer he attempted and was 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Devin Wilson, Justin Robinson, and Ahmed Hill also started for the Hokies and scored a combined 32 points between the three of them. Hill provided 19 points off of 8-14 shooting and 1-5 from three-point range, while leading the team with 9 rebounds.
Wilson was 100% on his shooting going 3-3 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line for ten points. Those offensive stats might give some fans memories of the 2013-2014 season in which Devin Wilson was the leading scorer as a freshman under then-head coach James Johnson.
Whether Wilson will keep up the efficient scoring is yet to be seen, but it’s nice to have him back on the court. Robinson was very quiet in the scoring columns tonight, scoring just three points on 1-5 shooting, but he led the team with six assists and three steals.
Justin Bibbs was in street clothes for this game and his reason is undisclosed, but Buzz Williams said he is disappointed in Bibbs and holds him to a higher standard.
Chris Clarke made his first appearance since February of last season and scored 9 points in the 18 minutes he played. Clarke injured himself against Virginia in the Hokies’ win last season and went through 9 months of rehab. He announced yesterday on social media that he is “cleared,” which is great news for Tech fans everywhere.
Clarke had a dunk with 11:20 left in the second half that warranted a technical foul after he hung on the rim to make sure he did not injure himself when he landed. Having Clarke back will be huge if the Hokies want to have a shot at making a run to the NCAA Tournament.
Wabissa Bede, P.J. Horne, and Tyrie Jackson all had impressive debuts for the Hokies as they were composed under pressure and looked experienced. Jackson scored 9 points but was second on the team in rebounding with 8 boards while also being arguably VT’s most athletic player.
Bede handled the ball well and scored 4 points, but most importantly, he relieved Justin Robinson and Devin Wilson from handling the ball when it was most needed. P.J. Horne played significant minutes when Blackshear Jr. got into foul trouble in the first half and he played well, scoring 10 points while grabbing five rebounds. He is young but has a bright future.
Lastly is Nick Fullard; the redshirt-junior forward that was given a scholarship earlier in the semester played just two minutes in the game and accumulated two fouls very quickly.
Defense was the biggest thing the Hokies need to improve on in upcoming games, including getting into foul trouble. If Blackshear does get into foul trouble, Fullard and Horne will have to step up as VT’s featured big man for the time being.
The biggest takeaways from the game would be that the Hokies can score, putting it simply. With Alexander-Walker, Hill, Bibbs, and crew putting up points every game, there won’t be much to worry about scoring wise until someone can prove they can stop Virginia Tech’s firepower.
Alexander-Walker showed that the sky is the limit for him, and that he could possibly be a “one-and-done” player.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is much basketball still to be played this season. If Buzz can get the defense going, the Hokies will be a tough team to face for anyone.
Virginia Tech hosts The Citadel on Sunday at 7 and will play next Thursday against Saint Louis in Madison Square Garden for the 2K Tipoff Classic. The Hokies put up 113 points against the Citadel last season and this offense is better this year so expect a lot of points Sunday night.