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Virginia Tech holds off VMI

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — For the second time in two days, Virginia Tech staved off a second-half comeback attempt to defeat a military school from the Southern Conference. The Hokies led from start to finish in a 87-74 win over Virginia Military Institute on Monday in Cassell Coliseum.

Five Hokies scored in double figures, led by freshman guard Justin Bibbs, who put up a game-high 20 points. Guard Devin Wilson scored 16 points and distributed six assists.

Bibbs said that VMI’s frenzied pace can be difficult to face but that it also presents a lot of offensive opportunities.

“It’s a crazy style,” Bibbs said. “It’s kind of weird. It gets you tired though.”

“I was just attacking and trying to get to the rim. In previous games, I started shooting a lot, but in this game I wanted to get to the rim a lot, hit free throws, and stuff like that.”

Just two days prior on Saturday, the Hokies survived a scare from The Citadel. Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said that short layover was concerning, especially due to the stark contrast in style and tempo between Bulldogs and the up-tempo Keydets.

“It’s dangerous,” Williams said. “It’s playing with fire. I thought our staff was incredible in their prep. On a one-day turnaround, you’re playing a team diametrically opposed to what The Citadel was.”

“The temptation is to say, ‘Well let’s just hoop.’ And that’s what they want you to do.”

VMI’s Duggar Baucom remarked after the game that the Hokies’ game

preparation was impressive.

“They were calling out some of our plays, so they had done their

homework,” Balcom said. “Which is amazing really for a one-day preparation. They played with The Citadel, which is the antithesis of us. He had them ready and knew what we were going to do.. They did a good job.”

After trailing by 24 points at halftime, the Keydets came storming out of the locker room to start the second half. VMI ripped off a 19-8 run behind eight consecutive points from guard Brian Brown. VMI got as close as nine points with 2:33 remaining in the game, but the Hokies sank eight free throws down the stretch to salt away the game.

A combination of impressive defense from the Hokies and poor shooting by the Keydets led to VMI scoring 14 points fewer than its season average. The Keydets entered Monday tied with BYU for first in the country in points per game (88.9).

VMI guards QJ Peterson and Tim Marshall, the team’s two leading scorers, combined for 32 points but shot just 30.3 percent from the floor. Marshall finished with 18 points, Peterson had 14, and Brown scored 10.

Paced by Wilson, the Hokies took a 51-27 lead into halftime. Wilson

finished the half with 11 points, while freshman guards Jalen Hudson and Bibbs combined for 19.

Tech shot a blistering 66.7 percent from the floor in the first half, and five Hokies scored at least seven points.

The Hokies sprinted out to an 18-4 advantage by borrowing a page from VMI’s playbook, and the Keydets appeared to be out of sorts as a result.

Coach Buzz Williams’ young Virginia Tech squad played at a frenetic pace from the tip, scoring numerous times in transition in the opening minutes.

The Keydets, meanwhile, struggled mightily from the floor. VMI made only seven of 28 first-half attempts from the field, including 2-for-17 from behind the 3-point arc.

Compounding VMI’s problems were the stretches of full-court press the Keydets’ backcourt encountered after the Hokies’ made shots, which were frequent in the first half. Virginia Tech forced 11 first-half turnovers and converted VMI’s miscues into 17 points.

“We couldn’t handle the ball,” Balcom said. “We couldn’t get shots off. I credit it all on their defense. We had to shoot looks that were deeper than we normally shoot. We weren’t tough with the ball so they just stripped us on several occasions and got runouts. It was a combination of us not being tough with the ball and them just being way tougher.”

NOTES: Virginia Tech leads the all-time series against VMI 89-43. … The Hokies have played the Keydets more than any other nonconference opponent in program history. … Virginia Tech hosts Presbyterian on Saturday night.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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