Virginia Tech may have only made 36.5 percent of their field goal attempts, but their ability to command the glass and the paint helped them overcome their inconsistent offense in South Bend. Notre Dame shot an even more paltry 32.8 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from three, while losing the rebounding battle 49-27 to the Hokies, resulting in a wire-to-wire win for Tech.
Kerry Blackshear, the player of February for Virginia Tech, was once more the key to success. He had 22 points and 14 rebounds, which has become somewhat commonplace for the Hokies’ indispensable big man over the last three weeks. Notre Dame struggled finishing around Blackshear at the rim while becoming the latest team to have trouble defending him on the low block.
Virginia Tech jumped out to a 11-2 lead in the games’ opening minutes, forcing Notre Dame to begin the game 0-of-7 from the floor. The Hokies capitalized, hitting three triples in that time frame, from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ahmed Hill, and Ty Outlaw. Tech would go on to hit just two more shots from behind the arc, but the three triples before the second media timeout gave the Hokies control of the game.
Notre Dame threatened in short spurts, cutting the lead to four twice in the first half, usually due to careless basketball by the Hokies. Virginia Tech ended the game turning the ball over once every four possessions, which will never be classified as winning basketball. But as they have generally done over the last seven games, the offense responded well after giving up a run and looking a bit out-of-sorts. Virginia Tech kept the Irish at arm’s length the entire distance, and held a 30-23 lead at halftime.
The most exciting moment of the second half did not even come from the game being played, but from the announcers themselves. The color commentator (not sure who it was) first pointed out that Justin Robinson was out of his walking boot for yesterday’s light shoot around and walkthrough, speculating that his new status is day-to-day. It was nothing definitive, but showed that Robinson was at least healing after suffering a foot injury against Miami.
However, a few minutes later he mentioned that Hokies’ staff are optimistic Robinson could be back as early as the Florida State game (March 5). That would give the Hokies, and more importantly Robinson, a few games to get reacclimated to playing with each other. It would also give the Hokies a much better chance to win in Tallahassee against a very good Florida State team which has had Tech’s number over the last few years. Virginia Tech would greatly benefit from a double bye in the ACC tournament in two weeks, and an early Robinson return would certainly aid that.
Down ten late, Notre Dame began to foul to extend the game, but to no avail. Virginia Tech had no trouble at the charity stripe to put the game away, beating the Irish for the second time this season.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was the Hokies’ other double digit scorer with 12 points on 2-of-8 shooting. It was not his best day as a facilitator, however, as he committed five turnovers, leading the team. It was a struggle for everyone shooting the ball not named Blackshear - that group of players went 12-of-40 from the floor. The Hokies supporting cast needs to improve their play over the next few weeks as we approach Selection Sunday, whether that’s with Robinson or not.
Any road ACC game will be tougher than it should, but the Hokies essentially cruised to victory today. With a 10-5 conference record, they have matched the program record for conference wins in a season (they’ve hit that mark each of the last three years). Tech has a legitimate chance to break that record this season, a fine achievement for an undermanned team that has dealt with adversity all year.