The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team weathered an ugly first half on their way to 5-1 record as they defeated St. Bonaventure 73-64 Sunday night.
After their first loss of the season Wednesday night at the hands of the Syracuse Orangemen, the Hokies head into a critical non-conference matchup with Minnesota (Wednesday) on the heels of two-straight wins.
“I thought that was just a really good team win in all aspects — offensively and defensively,” said Seth Greenberg, head coach.
The Hokies had their hands full with the Bonnies, who took them to overtime last season (a 76-68 Hokies win). For much of the game, it looked like the Hokies were on the cusp of putting St. Bonaventure away, but the lead seemed to always creep back to single digits.
St. Bonaventure kept it close in the first half, and had it down to a one-point Hokies lead with the clock running down. With six seconds left, freshman Dorian Finney-Smith hit a three to put the Hokies up four with momentum.
“That three he made at the end of the half was really big,” Greenberg said. “That was a big basket; the difference between going up one and going up four is huge.”
With the lead at 25-21 going into halftime, the Hokies got a bit of a jolt from Greenberg in the locker room.
“All you need is coach Greenberg to come in here and say some words,” said Erick Green. “We knew we had 10 turnovers in the first half, and we knew we had to take care of the ball. That was the emphasis.”
Forward Victor Davila, who finished with 13 points, battled St. Bonaventure big man Andrew Nicholson down low all night. Nicholson, who is on many NBA teams’ draft boards, was limited to just nine points and seven rebounds by Davila.
“It was not letting him get tight touches (near the rim),” Davila said. “I fronted, and got some back side help. That was about it.”
Because the Hokies faced Nicholson and the Bonnies last year, Davila knew what to expect Sunday night.
“Because we played them last year, we knew what we were getting into,” Davila said. “We just had to play him hard and not let him get tight touches.”
Part of the Hokies game plan was to attack Nicholson in all areas of the game, especially on defense.
“We wanted to make Nicholson guard every possession,” Greenberg said. “That was our game plan going in. Whether it was a ball screen, whether it was a post-up, that was really important to us.”
The Hokies (5-1, 0-0) have a little steam heading into their matchup with Minnesota. Greenberg and his team did not overlook St. Bonaventure in what some thought would be a lackluster effort.
“It was a tricky game even if we had a week off because they’re a good team,” Greenberg said. “They’re a team that’s going to win a lot of games.”
The Preseason NIT and playing in Madison Square Garden was a great experience for the Hokies.
“The Garden was a great experience for our guys and I thought they handled it well,” Greenberg said.
With a few big non-conference matchups looming on the Hokies’ schedule, Greenberg is seeing slow but steady progress from his young team.
“We’re taking baby steps,” Greenberg said. “We’ve got so far to go. I think this team can continue to get better.”
The Hokies travel to the North Star state for the ACC/Big Ten challenge Wednesday night. Tipoff against the Golden Gophers is at 9:30.