After their worst shooting performance of the season on Wednesday, Virginia Tech (8-3) bounced back against Gardner-Webb (3-8) on Sunday, defeating the Runnin’ Bulldogs 73-46.
Tyrece Radford recorded his first career double-double for the Hokies, scoring ten points and grabbing ten rebounds. It’s the second-most boards the Baton Rouge native has recorded this season and his third consecutive game with seven or more rebounds.
“For him to be 6’1” but rebound like Dennis Rodman, it’s just incredible,” Landers Nolley said. “We see it every day in practice, so it doesn’t surprise us… we’ve just been waiting for him to get a double-double.”
Radford, who redshirtred last season, is tied with Nolley for first on the team in rebounds with 64. He has also been an efficient shooter for the Hokies, shooting 68.6 percent (35-51) from the floor.
“He’s consistent night in and night out,” head coach Mike Young said. “And he’s quiet. His play isn’t quiet, his aggressiveness and toughness isn’t quiet, but the numbers… I would’ve never guessed he had a double-double.”
If Radford’s having a quiet season, then Nolley is having the loudest. The redshirt freshman from Fairburn, Georgia, led the Hokies with 18 points and 9 rebounds on the afternoon.
“After a game like that [Chattanooga], you just have to go in the gym and get up a lot of shots,” Nolley said. “It’s the repetition of seeing the ball going in… Ball movement, seeing shots go in early – it all contributes.”
Those early shots fell for Nolley, as he was 2-4 from three at the half. He made three of his six in the second half, finishing 5-10 from downtown. Combine the high percentage shooting with his nine boards and three assists, along with only one turnover, and Nolley had himself an afternoon.
The Hokies shot 5-14 from deep in the first half but turned it around in the second period, hitting on eight of their 18 attempts.
Hunter Cattoor and Isaiah Wilkins were flocking to the ball on defense, as they finished with five steals combined. The Hokies forced 11 total turnovers from Gardner-Webb, resulting in 12 points.
“We were good defensively and I think that translated into us getting buckets on offense,” Cattoor said. “We played together as a group, talked on defense and got steals to get us in transition.”
The Hokies scored 11 points on the break and ran away with it against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Tech’s defense also held GWU to 29 percent shooting from the field, including 25 percent from three.
“Everything [on defense] is about communication, getting back in transition and finding your match up,” Landers Nolley said. “Once we do that, we limit teams with our transition, and it’s hard to score on our half of the court.”
The Hokies received a spark from their bench, with Wilkins scoring 13 points and Cattoor scoring 11. Freshman Jalen Cone added six, while John Ojiako had a strong performance, scoring four points and recording nine rebounds.
“I was happy to get John [Ojiako] 21 minutes,” Young said. “To get him on the floor for 21 minutes, he just needs to see some more things. He’s a visual learner. To have the opportunity to see yourself play and how we covered this and that… He really wants to play well and help you win. He’s going to get there. He’s going to be a really good player.”
Ojiako played eight first half minutes due to P.J. Horne being in foul trouble, but made the most of it, scoring four points. He also grabbed six rebounds in that span, providing an inside presence for Mike Young & Co.
Cattoor made a return to the court on Sunday after missing Wednesday’s game against Chattanooga with a tweaked ankle. He performed well, scoring seven of his eleven points in the first half and shooting 3-4 from the floor including 2-4 from behind the arc.
Nahiem Alleyne did not make a basket on Sunday after leading Tech with 22 points on Wednesday, while Wabissa Bede contributed eight points and five assists for the Hokies. Horne added three points and five rebounds in limited minutes due to foul trouble.
Overall, the Hokies rebounded from a rough shooting performance against Chattanooga and played well defensively, while receiving some much needed production from their bench.
The Hokies are now 6-1 at home and have won two consecutive games after their three-game losing streak. Tech returns to the court in six days when they host VMI in Cassell Coliseum at 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 21, on the ACC Network.