As many games for Virginia Tech have been this season, it was a tale of two halves Saturday night in Atlantic City. However this time, the Hokies were much worse in the second half despite normally being a second-half team.
After a strong first half, Virginia Tech cooled off some in the second half but their defense kept this game from getting too close on their way to a comfortable 73-61 victory over Washington. With the win, the 13th-ranked Hokies improved to 9-1 on the season with a pair of quality wins over Purdue and Washington while the Huskies fell to 7-4 overall.
The Hokies came out firing on all cylinders early on, and Washington had no answer. The key to the first half was defense as the Huskies shot just 28 percent. The Hokie offense also made enough shots to carry the team to an 18 point halftime lead.
However, the second half was a different story. Washington made strong adjustments and came out shooting lights out from behind the arc.
The Huskies made eight threes in the second half after only making two in the first. In addition, Kerry Blackshear got into foul trouble once again, and the Hokies were unable to secure enough defensive rebounds.
The Huskies slowly chipped away at the lead, shrinking it from 20 points to seven.
But when his team needed him most, Nickeil Alexander-Walker took over.
Alexander-Walker got into foul trouble early and was a nonfactor for most of the first half. However, once it became clear that the Hokies would need some strong offense to hold off the surging Huskies, he provided just that.
At one point there was a stretch where Alexander-Walker scored 11 of the Hokies’ 13 points. He aggressively attacked Washington’s matchup zone and found opportunities for both himself and his teammates.
Alexander-Walker was named MVP of the Boardwalk Classic. He finished with 24 points, three assists, three rebounds, and two steals. The way he completely took over the game offensively reminded many of Hokie legend Seth Allen. At one point, there was no doubt who was getting the ball every time Tech was on offense. The defense had no answer.
Ty Outlaw and PJ Horne each shared the team lead in rebounds with 6 while Outlaw also had 8 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals; and Horne had 6 points. Justin Robinson had a quieter game than normal with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 assists while Ahmed Hill had 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kerry Blackshear was one of four Hokies in double figures with 10 points along with 1 block, 1 steal, and only 1 rebound.
Virginia Tech took care of business and picked up what should be another quadrant 1 victory that will only boost their resume as they pursue a top 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies’ next game will be against North Carolina A&T in Cassell Coliseum on December 19th at 7 p.m.