On Friday night, Virginia Tech basketball achieved its first NCAA Tournament victory in 12 years in convincing fashion. Going up against the 13-seeded Saint Louis Billikens, the Hokies shined on both sides of the floor. They got off to a hot start and never looked back, the final score reading 66–52.
This game also marked the return of senior Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech’s all-time leader in assists, who had been sidelined with a foot injury since Jan. 30. His return came at an opportune time, as he played an important role in the victory. Coming off the bench, Robinson scored nine points and posted two steals.
Right after the tip-off, Ahmed Hill immediately got the team pumped up, scoring Virginia Tech’s first points of the game with a breakaway slam. The Hokies wasted no time making their presence felt, jumping out to a 19–6 lead to start the game. Virginia Tech continued playing suffocating defense, forcing nine turnovers and going into the second half boasting a 40–18 lead.
The second half showcased a comeback attempt from Saint Louis. It began the half by going on an 8–0 run and eventually cut the deficit to 10 points. Virginia Tech soon stifled this attempt and held on to seal the victory. The Hokies held Saint Louis to 36.5 percent (19–52) shooting from the field and 17.4 percent (4–23) from three-point range. They also forced 18 turnovers compared to only 11 of their own.
The Hokies were led offensively by Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear Jr. Alexander-Walker scored 20 points while shooting 8-of-13 from the field; he also added six rebounds and three steals. Blackshear Jr. scored 15 points, 11 of them coming from the free throw line. Hill also added 10 points.
Robinson’s return was the key storyline, as the senior guard took advantage of what amounted to a warm-up game for him to get the rust off after missing 12 games.
“The first couple of possessions I was just trying to get my teammates involved, and the whole game I let them carry me,” Robinson said after the game.
Robinson will get another chance on Sunday to get back into the flow of things with a rematch with 12-seeded Liberty for a chance at an invitation to the Sweet 16.
“We actually played them in an exhibition before the season started, so I think just having a little familiarity with them, I think it’ll help us in the long run and on Sunday,” Robinson said.
On Sunday, March 24 at 7:10 p.m., No. 4 Virginia Tech will take on No. 12 Liberty in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be airing on TBS.