Virginia Tech opened both halves with strong offensive performances to put away Garner-Webb 73-46. The win moves the Hokies to 8-3 on the year and 6-1 at home in Cassell Coliseum.
Mike Young’s team continues to improve along with having moments that remind everyone they are quite young - in age and developing as a team. But Sunday’s victory had some very promising takeaways that bode well for the upcoming ACC run and the next few seasons in Blacksburg.
1 - The freshman class is deep
As one might expect Landers Nolley led the Hokies in minutes (30) and points (18) against Garner-Webb. That’ll be the case more often than any other player this season. At times, Nolley appears so impressive already he may not stay in Blacksburg for four seasons. Against Chattanooga it was Nahiem Alleyne’s night, but he went scoreless on Sunday. However, it was Tyrece Radford that deserves first recognition for yesterday’s result.
If you recall, we noted his excellent performance against Duke, and on Sunday, against a weaker team, he hit his season best. Radford landed Tech’s first double-double of the year, scoring 10 points (including his first made three of the season) and pulled down 10 rebounds. He played 27 minutes, second most on the team, while only committing one foul.
There will be nights where Nolley or Alleyne single-handedly are the difference. P.J. Horne and Wabissa Bede will be consistent performers all season. Having the 5th starter able to deliver these numbers - and as another freshman - is great for the start of the Mike Young era.
Boots was on one today ✊@Tyreceradford23 turned in his first-ever double-double, which was our first one this year— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) December 16, 2019
• 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting
• 10 rebounds (2 offensive)#StoneByStone | #Hokies pic.twitter.com/FU09LuSpmM
2 - The bench is more critical for the Hokies than most teams
34-0. Tech won by 27 points on Sunday. That difference was the bench. The Hokies bench outscored Garner-Webb’s 34 to 0. Isiah Wilkins had 13, Hunter Cattoor 10, Jalen Cone with 6, and John Ojiako contributed 4. Virginia Tech are a solid seven players deep, but have the potential go stretch that to nine deep on a great night or more consistently as the season progresses.
Having depth, and depth that can score and defend is critical for the upcoming ACC stretch. Cattoor has shown the ability to start and deliver significant minutes, while Wilkins is the leading returning scorer from last season. Both provide points and rebounds, offering the starters rest without a major drop off in quality.
Jalen Cone has the talent, but will require more time to adjust his game to the collegiate level. He is fearless to shoot, which Mike Young loves, and demonstrated his ability to run the point and score when needed - 17 points against Delaware State last month. That’s eight deep, now on to the ninth.
3 - The big man finally makes his presence felt
It’s easy to see the Hokies lack a prescience in the paint. Six of those eight contributors mentioned above are 6’4” or shorter. Landers Nolley is the tallest from that group at just 6’7”. Thus Mike Young spreads the floor and focuses on the three point shot. It favors Tech’s current talent, while also avoiding their most glaring weakness.
Which is why John Ojiako, at 6’10”, is a welcome sight. However, much like Jalen Cone, Ojiako will take time to develop his game at VT. And before he can be relied upon to be an inside presence, both offensively and defensively. The game against Duke showed Tech’s need for a big man, and why hitting their threes each night is so vital.
Like many, Ojiako put up a solid night against Delaware State in that 100-point match - scoring 9 and pulling down 7 rebounds. Against Garner-Webb he delivered again - 21 minutes, 6 points, but 9 rebounds.
He shouldn’t be expected to be a scoring threat down low, but simply developing into a low-post player will help the rest of the team tremendously. Making it harder for opposition big men (like Duke’s Vernon Carey) to score easily and pulling in defenses to free up space for Virginia Tech’s array of shooters from deep.
A bright future ahead for Tyrece Radford, John Ojiako, and the entire Virginia Tech team. The Hokies have nearly a week off as students take exams and we approach the winter break. Tech hosts VMI next Saturday (12/14) at 4 pm.