Virginia Tech improved to 3-0 (1-0 ACC) after its blowout victory against USC Upstate, who fell to 1-3 (0-0 Big South). The Hokies, who were led by 23 points from Landers Nolley II, relied on their outside shooting to earn a victory against the Spartans.
“I thought he practiced exceptionally well over the last two days,” said head coach Mike Young about Nolley II after the game. “His attention to detail and awareness in shootaround today was at an all-time high. He was geared up, ready to play.”
The Hokies opened up the game making just two shots out of their first seven attempts and committed two turnovers. They made up for this, however, by forcing three turnovers of their own and disrupting the offense of USC Upstate. At the first timeout, Virginia Tech trailed 6-5.
Coming out of the timeout, Hunter Cattoor hit a 3-pointer off the bench. Tech’s bench was key in this stretch as they began to spark the offense. However, the defense seemed to falter a bit, giving up a couple open looks inside from the Spartans.
After going down 14-9 around the 12-minute mark of the first half, the Hokies began to pick it up. Tech went on an extended run that carried it for the rest of the half, as John Ojiako had a big block at the rim. Nahiem Alleyne followed this up with a tough layup followed by a three on the next possession. This led to a stretch of five consecutive made field goals for the Hokies, including three 3-pointers.
Virginia Tech went into halftime on the heels of a 29-10 scoring run in the final 12 minutes that put it ahead 38-24. Nolley II and Alleyne were the leading scorers for Tech at the intermission with nine points apiece.
“Teams are going to come in here and play well,” Young said about what allowed the Hokies to go on the big run to end the half. “Just stay the course. It’s basketball. Football is the same way; just hang in there. We’ll be okay.”
Wabissa Bede, despite not hitting a shot in the first half, made his impact felt with his poise and leadership. He finished the half with five assists and could be seen from the bench calling out rotations to teammates on defense.
As a team, the Hokies made an astounding seven of their first 10 shots from 3-point range in the first half. USC Upstate, on the other hand, could not hit a single three as it missed all 15 of its attempts from deep.
The Hokies stayed hot to begin the second half, with Nolley II opening up their scoring with another three. This was shortly followed by Cattoor hitting his third 3-pointer of the night. Following Cattoor’s shot, the Hokies had now hit nine of their 14 threes.
Bede finally broke into the scoring column after hitting a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Hokies up 49-35. Tech’s defense sparked a run that began to open up the lead as it forced turnovers on three straight defensive possessions. After the Spartans’ third consecutive turnover, Bede found Isaiah Wilkins for an easy layup following a great drive to the paint.
Nolley II had a great run to help put the Hokies up by 23, their biggest lead of the game. Nolley II made a couple tough shots and some great passes, including a great crossover which led to him nailing a long two-point jumper. Ojiako put an exclamation point on the win with a powerful dunk with 30 seconds remaining, and Virginia Tech went on to beat USC Upstate 80-57.
When coach Young was asked post game what he saw on the defensive end, he attributed their mistakes to a lack of experience.
“They are trying their tails off to do what we ask,” Young said on the defense. “There’s no substitute for experience. There’s no substitute for seeing plays.”
This was the highest scoring game of the year thus far for Tech, whose previous scoring high had come in the opener at Clemson where it scored 74 points in its win. The Hokies will host Lehigh University at Cassell Coliseum in their next game at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 16.