That was a nail biter. The Virginia Tech Hokies and the Liberty Flames started off their session of the Round of 32 battling back and forth for the first 10 minutes. Tech led some times, and Liberty would jump out. Hokies seemed to lose some air with less than 6 left in the half. The Flames took an 8 point lead at the 4:32 mark. Tech didn’t panic, but I am sure there were more than a few folks in Hokie Nation who were more than seriously nervous. Kerry Blackshear Jr. pulled off an old fashioned 3 point play by grabbing a layup and hitting the free throw on the resulting foul. Then Justin Robinson drained a three pointer to put us within 2. Blackshear would again drop in a 2 point layup to tie it at 26. Liberty pushed the lead out to 3 with an old NBA 3 point play to provide the difference in the half which ended with a trading of long distance 3’s from each side (Ty Outlaw played a great game).
For the first half, Tech looked a bit flat, their shooting was off, and their defense wasn’t really in sync. Liberty took full advantage pushing a lead out to 8 points before a critical timeout, and some good foul shooting along with some critical field goals to get the ball game within 3 for the halftime break.
The second half was an entirely different experience. Whatever Buzz Williams had to say in the locker room he said it with great effect. Tech scored 7 coming out of the break before Liberty hit 2. Between the 17 and 13 minute marks, Liberty took advantage of Tech’s, now sort of distressing, early 2nd half (3rd Quarter) tendency to slump. Tech got it back to 44 even at 13:51 to go and never let go of the lead again. It would grow and shrink but Liberty never managed to get enough going that Tech couldn’t build a few points into their buffer. Ultimately the game did come down to the final 2 minutes. The Hokies could never really close the door on the Flames.
The clock, however did. Ty Outlaw scored the last 2 points of the game on two nice shots from the charity stripe, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s timely defensive rebound with a little over 20 seconds to go finalized the spread at 9, and sealed the win.
Virginia Tech advances to the Sweet 16. We renew our ACC rivalry with Duke for the battle into the Elite 8. Duke just barely inched by UCF by one bucket. We have to wait until Friday to pick this up where it left off after a JRob-less Hokie team defeated a Zion-less Duke. It’s going to be a regional match-up for the ages.
So, it looks like the ACC has placed 5 teams in the Sweet 16. Virginia has just put away Oklahoma. So for now, all we think about is beating Duke, again. So we know that we can.
Game Notes: Ty Outlaw with a Double-Double 10 points and 11 boards
Kerry Blackshear Jr. nearly grabs one with a team leading 19 points and 9 r’s.