Virginia Tech Defeats Longwood 84-58
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Despite sub-par three-point shooting and allowing Longwood to hang around, No. 24 Virginia Tech (7-1, 1-0 ACC) held off the Lancers (1-7, 0-2 Big South) for a 84-58 victory in Cassell Coliseum.
It was the Jalen Cone show in Blacksburg on Monday night as the sophomore guard made six of 13 from behind the arc and led the Hokies with 18 points. Though Tech was not fantastic from deep, hitting just 10 of 32 attempts, a 19-3 run in the second half and 59% shooting helped VT pull away.
“He [Jalen Cone] scores in bunches so he can really deflate a team’s defense with his ability to stop on a dime and rise up and make them,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said. “I thought he looked even more like himself tonight 48 hours after the Coppin State game. He’s a good basketball player, one that we need as we head into the meat of our ACC schedule.”
Despite struggling at times to score the ball, including a four-and-a-half minute drought in the first half, the Hokies turned the ball over a season low eight times and dished out 19 assists. Senior point guard Wabissa Bede recorded eight of those assists and did not turn the ball over once.
“You can't turn the ball over and to be eight games in on the year and we have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, I'm not sure that I've ever had a team do that,” Young said. “We know the importance of it, we know the significance of it. Tonight was a step in a positive direction but that's a non-negotiable. ... You're playing with fire if you're kicking that thing around.”
Though Keve Aluma and Joe Bamisile were the only other Tech players in double figures with 14 and 11 points, respectively, it was a team effort, as 10 of 13 Hokies scored.
Tech’s starters were particularly well-rounded, with Bede contributing five points, Nahiem Alleyne seven, Tyrece Radford nine (and eight rebounds) and Justyn Mutts four (and five boards). Hunter Cattoor (eight points), David N’Guessan (five points) and Cordell Pemsl (three points) each chipped in off the bench, too.
“We definitely have a great team and everyone can play,” Tech forward Keve Aluma said. “I’m excited to see our players progress and step into their roles as the season moves onward.”
The Hokies outscored Longwood 45-25 off the bench and 21-1 in second chance points, all while grabbing 14 offensive rebounds. Mike Young’s crew was rarely sloppy with the ball, rebounded well and outscored the Lancers 50-28 in the second half.
It wasn’t the cleanest game, but Young & Co. found a way to win. It’s the fourth time in the last five seasons that Virginia Tech has started the season 7-1, though the first time that the Hokies defeated two ranked teams to reach that mark.
In this strange time with COVID-19, many teams haven’t been able to play many games at all. Wake Forest, Tech’s ACC foe, has played just two games. Temple, who the Hokies were scheduled to play against at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, has yet to play a game.
“One day at a time,” Young said. “I feel fortunate, I feel incredibly lucky honestly to get to the end and have had the opportunity to play seven non-conference games.”
Through the first eight games, Tech only had one hiccup (a 75-55 loss to Penn St.). Though the Hokies weren’t perfect - over a four-game stretch against USF, VMI, Penn St. and Clemson, Tech shot just 25% from three - they got the job done.
Attention now turns to ACC play and Miami, Virginia Tech’s first opponent after winter break. After hosting the Hurricanes on Dec. 29, the Hokies play at No. 16 Virginia, at Louisville, Notre Dame and No. 20 Duke in the span of four games.
“I want to see us take another step defensively,” Young said. “I think we have the makings of a very, very good defensive team. If one person on any particular possession falls asleep for a click and something bad happens. You have to have those five guys playing together and engaged and we've been really, really good.”
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics