At John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team won arguably their biggest game in Buzz Williams’ four years over rival and second-ranked Virginia 61-60.
Led by point guard Justin Robinson, who scored 20 points, the Hokies out-rebounded the Cavaliers 37-36 and almost won the game in regulation before a Cavalier basket sent the game to overtime. However, the Hokies prevailed in overtime, thanks to a layup by Kerry Blackshear Jr. inside six seconds to go.
Coming into this game, Virginia Tech posted a 6-23 record against ranked teams under Buzz Williams, all of the wins coming in Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies played their tails off in JPJ on Saturday night though and emerged victorious with the first top 25 road win since January of 2012, when Seth Greenberg’s Tech squad defeated No. 15 Virginia in Charlottesville. This was also Virginia Tech’s first win over a top 5 opponent on the road since defeating No. 1 Wake Forest in January of 2009.
After an 85-75 win over North Carolina State on Wednesday night in Blacksburg, Buzz Williams stated how he liked the energy and spark Devin Wilson brought to the floor with this Hokies team. Wilson started his second straight game this season in JPJ and had a fantastic game, racking up 7 points while shooting a perfect 2-2 from the floor, including making his second three pointer of the season. Wilson was a perfect 2-2 from the free throw line as well and he did something he has not done all season: lead Virginia Tech in rebounding. Wilson grabbed seven rebounds, two offensive, and played 31 minutes, the most he played all season.
Justin Robinson stole the show again tonight, scoring 20 points and dishing out seven assists in the win. Robinson has scored in double figures in all 11 ACC games this season, averaging 17.5 points and 5.7 assists through those games. It was his third straight game scoring at least 20 points while he also played 43 out of 45 minutes. Robinson was hard on himself after the Tech win vs the Wolfpack on Wednesday because he missed free throws, shots that he said he always makes. He was 3/4 from the line in JPJ but missed his biggest free throw of the night, the one with less than a minute left that could have sealed the game. However, Robinson and company rallied in overtime to pull off the upset.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker did not have his best game against N.C. State but he was a huge help tonight, shooting 4-6 from behind the arc and like Robinson, scoring when the team needed it. Scoring 12 points, Alexander-Walker’s biggest bucket arguably came as the buzzer sounded for the first half; Robinson dribbled down the lane, split defenders and slung a pass out around a Virginia defender to the right wing. The pass found Alexander-Walker, who released the ball with .3 seconds to go and hit nothing but net, giving Virginia Tech some momentum going into halftime.
While Kerry Blackshear Jr. did not score a basket in the first half, he scored once in the second half with four minutes to go and got fouled, making a three point play to help Tech retake the lead. It was not Blackshear Jr.’s best game overall, but he fought hard and stuck around for overtime, when Tech needed him most. Blackshear Jr. scored the game-winning basket for Virginia Tech with less than 6 seconds to go in overtime, grabbing the offensive rebound over three Virginia defenders after Justin Robinson’s shot and putting it back up, all while falling to the floor and getting fouled. While he did take many questionable threes (he was 0-6 from behind the arc), Blackshear Jr. was clutch when it mattered and won the game for the Hokies. He finished the game with 7 points and six rebounds, playing 43 of the 45 total minutes.
Justin Bibbs had a streak of four straight games scoring in double figures that unfortunately ended tonight when he only scored four points, but his 8 points and hard work in his 44 minutes of play were key for Tech. He was 3-7 tonight, including 2-6 from three, but his hustle and clutch shots came when they were needed most kept Tech in the game. Bibbs played well on both ends of the floor and scored the few times it mattered most.
Wabissa Bede, Chris Clarke, and Ahmed Hill were the only other three Hokies to play in tonight’s game. Bede played just two minutes, giving Robinson a break when he needed it, while Hill played just 8 minutes, the least amount he has played all season, and didn’t attempt a single shot. He did grab two rebounds though. Clarke played well in the 30 minutes he played, scoring 7 points and pulling down six rebounds. Clarke’s offensive rebound with 30 seconds to go in regulation gave the Hokies the ball back and extended the possession, sending Robinson to the free throw line. A well-played game from Clarke, as well as Bede and Hill.
Virginia Tech shot 57% in the first half compared to a mere 36% from the Cavaliers, one of the reasons why Tech had the biggest lead over Virginia a team has had all season with 12 points at one point in the first half. Tech was 8-14 from three point land in that span. Throughout a few minutes of the first half, the Hokies were on a 22-2 run. VT could not keep it up in the second half though, shooting just 28.6% and 1-10 from three. However, VT stepped up on the defensive end to stop UVA from gaining any major separation.
Virginia Tech committed 10 turnovers the entire game while Virginia committed only 4. The Hokies were 11-29 from three while Virginia was 11-38, a big difference in the game. VT played one of its best defensive games on this season and it found a way to score against Virginia’s stubborn defense. It also helped that Virginia’s star players, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, did not have their best games of the season, scoring a combined 24 points and shooting 9-35, including 4-24 from three.
The win was celebrated in Blacksburg with students waiting for the team bus to return on what was a very wet night at VT.
Now, Virginia Tech moves on to face Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Wednesday at 7 on ESPN. Tech’s record vs Duke all-time? 9-45. 1-2 under Buzz. In Cameron Indoor, Tech’s record is 1-21, the sole win coming in February of 2006, the same day Deron Washington decided he would jump over Greg Paulus. Tech enters the game as one point underdogs. It won’t be easy, but ACC basketball never is.
With a 18-7, 7-5 record, Virginia Tech sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference alongside Louisville and Miami. There are six games to go in the regular season, with only Duke standing in the way of a three game home stand. Tech put themselves in a great place with a win in Charlottesville, hopefully off of the NCAA tournament bubble, and the future looks bright for the Hokies.