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Walk-ons lead Hokies over Alabama A&M

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Forward Christian Beyer scored a career-high 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Virginia Tech Hokies over the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 65-55 on Sunday in Cassell Coliseum.

Beyer, a walk-on and career reserve, averaged 1.3 minutes per game prior to Sunday’s game. He played the first 27 minutes of the game, taking advantage of seemingly every opportunity.

“My mentality has always been to be an energy guy off that bench,” Beyer said. “I pride myself on rebounding. I like that I was playing the five so other guys were attacking the rim and dumping it off to me on the block. I just wanted to go to work and be aggressive.”

Eleven Hokies broke into the scoring column, including 11 points from freshman forward Justin Bibbs. Guards Ahmed Hill and Will Johnston each scored eight.

Coming off of consecutive losses, the Hokies (5-4) snapped a two-game losing skid. Tech was looking to avoid its third home defeat in six tries having already lost home contests to Appalachian State and Radford.

Alabama A&M (1-6) made it interesting late in the second half, cutting the Hokies’ lead to 7 with 2:37 to play, but the Bulldogs would get no closer.

Head coach Willie Hayes said after the game that a couple of costly mistakes kept the Bulldogs from cutting further into Tech’s lead.

“We took some ill-advised shots,” Hayes said. “We turned the ball over and then they went back up. Then there was a turnover down there at the end that really hurt us.”

Forward Ladarius Tabb led A&M with 20 points and 16 rebounds. It was Tabb’s second straight double-double.

Forward Nicolas West also recorded a double-double, fouling out late with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Playing with largely role players and reserves throughout the first half, the Hokies engineered a 17-0 run in the final 5:41 to take a 36-20 lead at intermission.

Hayes said after the game that the combination of fatigue and fouls cost his team during the Hokies’ late run.

“We got tired,” Williams said. “People got in foul trouble, and that’s when they made their run. (Shane) Henry came in and got a couple of offensive rebounds that kind of lifted them going into the last four minutes of the first half. We were neck-and-neck for a while, but we just couldn’t overcome that run.”

Frustrated by his team’s effort in last Sunday’s home loss to Radford, coach Williams appeared to be send a message to his team. Johnston and Christian Beyer, both walk-ons, started and played significant minutes.

Guards Devin Wilson, Malik Mueller, and Jalen Hudson did not play in the first half, nor did freshman center Satchel Pierce. Each player averaged more than 10 minutes per game entering the contest. For the sophomore Wilson, Sunday marked the first time in his career that he did not start.

“We’ve got to figure it out,” Williams said. “It’s not Devin and Malik, it’s anybody.”

“We’ve got to figure out who plays best together and we’ve got to figure out who plays hardest the longest. And that’s not any name specific, that’s just our program.”

Beyer, nominated by Virginia Tech last month for a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, finished the first half with a team-high nine points and eight rebounds.

Neither team shot especially well early in the first half, though the Hokies heated up. Tech entered halftime shooting 46.4 percent from the floor. Alabama A&M connected on just 31.8 percent of its field-goal attempts.

NOTES: Sunday’s game marked the first-ever meeting between the Virginia Tech and Alabama A&M. … Virginia Tech hosts The Citadel on Saturday afternoon. … Alabama A&M visits Marquette on Friday night.

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