A quiet crowd provided the somnolent backdrop for the Hokies to sleepwalk through parts of the night, but Virginia Tech still dispatched North Carolina A&T with relative ease, 82-60. Prior to the tip, KenPom rated Tech No. 9 and A&T 314th. That's everything you need to know. Buzzketball moved to 10-1 on the season with the victory.
Tech started slow, seemingly uninterested in expending too much effort with a holiday break looming. The Hokies didn't make a basket until Nickeil Alexander-Walker slammed home a steal at the 16:45 mark.
And Buzzketball's first non-dunk shot that dropped was a Kerry Blackshear Jr layup with 15:44 remaining. The Hokies turned it over 5 times in the opening 7 minutes.
However, Tech's offense woke up eventually. A balanced offensive attack helped five Hokies score in double figures. Leading the charge was Alexander-Walker with 20 points. Blackshear contributed 17. Justin Robinson had 14, P.J. Horne put in 13, and Ahmed Hill rounded out the double-digit scoring with 11. Everyone who stepped on the court for Tech scored points.
The Hokies only shot 33% from the field in the first 8 minutes of the contest. But despite the rocky start, they recovered to nearly eclipse their season average, shooting 49.2% (50.2%) on the night.
"I think overall at the beginning of the game, we weren't making shots but we were getting all the shots we wanted," explained Robinson. "They were practice shots. Just wasn't making shots. I tried to keep everybody motivated the right way and tell everybody that we're going to be fine no matter what happens in the flow of the game. Overall, we're in a good groove right now."
Alexander-Walker once again was the bright spot on offense. His 20 points came off of 8 for 14 shooting. He also grabbed 3 rebounds and snagged 4 steals.
"I would say my teammates have done an amazing job," noted Alexander-Walker. "They give me confidence. There's a lot of things that they do that goes unseen. We have a lot of weapons. When Ahmed and Ty space the floor, it makes it easier for me because we have great shooters. P.J., K.J. set great screens. When I'm driving, they seal which holds their man off so that makes it more of a one-on-one game with me. I'm just trying to watch a lot more film than last year. Letting it come to me, letting the flow come to me."
P.J. Horne showed out offensively: 13 points on 5 of 6 from the field and 6 rebounds.
"It's just us two getting reps every day," explained Blackshear. "Having somebody like him in practice to go up against, it's different than some guys I see on other teams. But it's a really refreshing thing. I think we give each other good looks every day because we compete and it's just us two competing every day. I think he gives us a lot."
With Blackshear staying out of foul trouble, the front-court duo played extended minutes together.
"I like the grouping," said Buzz Williams. "We've done it at times, when foul trouble has allowed us to do it. I'm not completely comfortable yet at playing with the burden of foul trouble. But those guys have a good symmetry. KJ's intelligent enough and skilled enough to play both. I think as P.J. has continued to improve, he's quietly demanding more minutes. I think it gives us more size, when those guys are on the floor, we're not the smallest high major team in the country. So it gives us a different dimension. But when they have been as productive individually as they have been, when we can combine that because foul trouble is not an issue, I think it helps our team. It gives us a different look at times.
Buzzketball has 10 days off for the holidays, their longest break of the season. The Hokies return to action on December 28 against Maryland Eastern-Shore for one final non-conference tune-up before ACC play. KenPom rates the Hawks even lower than the Aggies — 349 out of 353 teams.
First Half: Virginia Tech 36–North Carolina A&T 23
17:05, 3-2 NC A&T Hokies started slow again. Maybe the quiet environment in Cassell had something to do with it. Buzzketball is 0 for 3 with 2 turnovers.
13:44, 6-6 Virginia Tech recorded their fifth turnover of the game. Still searching for their first assist.
11:55, 9-6 VT Still don't think that the Hokies have realized there's a game going on. Six turnovers and one assist. Shooting an abysmal 33% from the field.
7:11, 18-12 VT That last stretch was more like Buzzketball. Open shots from beyond the arc. Attacking the basket. Forcing turnovers. Good for a 9-1 run.
3:54, 29-18 VT Virginia Tech opened it up finally. It's a balanced attack, seven Hokies have scored, but none are in double-figures yet.
Second Half: Virginia Tech 82–North Carolina A&T 60
15:34, 47-35 VT Virginia Tech continued to sleep walk through the game. The Aggies shot a blistering 71.4% from the field since the start of the second half.
14:52, 49-35 VT Blackshear Jr. picked up 2 fouls in 23 seconds. As required.
11:19, 58-41 VT It doesn't feel like the Hokies are up by 17. Honestly, that says a lot about how bad North Carolina A&T is. Somehow, the Aggies have a better assist-to-turnover ratio than the Hokies.
7:53, 68-43 VT Hokies went on a 12-2 run to open the game up. Blackshear Jr. needs two rebounds for a double-double. Hill needs three.