Alexander-Walker carries Virginia Tech past The Citadel
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Nickeil Alexander-Walker isn’t necessarily surprised at his rather torrid start to the 2017-18 season. He used another word to describe it.
“Grateful,” he said.
Alexander-Walker scored 29 points to lead Virginia Tech to a 132-93 victory over The Citadel on Sunday night.
Alexander-Walker scored 21 first-half points as The Citadel (1-1) had no answer for the 6-foot-5 forward. Coming off a 24-point game in his collegiate debut Friday night against Detroit Mercy, he hit 10 of 16 from the field against the Bulldogs, including three 3-pointers.
“Don’t suck,” Alexander-Walker said of his expectations coming into the season. “Just help in any way possible. Forget what people say and try to make your teammates and your mom proud.”
“I think Nickeil is a good player,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said. “I think that guys that are on the path to a high level of success, I think they go about their business different. Since the first day I met Nickeil, since the first day he’s been on campus, his daily itinerary is different . His wisdom is well beyond his years. He’s always been gifted as a player, but I think what separates him is that he’s spent so much time doing all the little things that those little things are beginning to add up.”
The Hokies (2-0) got off to a quick start against an overmatched Bulldogs squad en route to a record-setting evening. Their 131 points are the second-most in school history and the most in a non-overtime game. They also set a school record with 36 assists.
Virginia Tech attacked The Citadel’s press at first and then carved up its zone defense. The Hokies connected on 15 of their first 20 shots and scored 66 points in the first half after shooting 69.2 percent from the field (27 of 39).
“They’re just better,” The Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom said. “They’re better at basically every position. Our three best players - Preston Parks, Kaelon Harris and Zane Najdawi - had six points and five turnovers at the half. We were relying on freshmen . I thought they played and grew up quick, but we can’t get off to that kind of start depending on freshmen against an ACC and NCAA Tournament team.”
Kerry Blackshear Jr. came two assists short of a triple double, scoring 22 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and handing out eight assists. Ahmed Hill scored 20 and Justin Robinson added 19 for Virginia Tech, which shot 68.6 percent from the floor (48 of 70).
Hayden Brown and Tariq Simmons paced the Bulldogs with 22 points each.
Virginia Tech: Blackshear Jr. took a redshirt year last season while recovering from a lower leg injury, but he looks completely healthy this season, and the Hokies need his presence inside given their lack of post players. He delivered against the Bulldogs, coming a point short of tying his career high and his 15 rebounds were a career high. He had just two double-figure rebounding games as a freshman in 2015-16.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs are going to have nights like this considering the makeup of their roster, which features no seniors and six freshmen. They may have pieces to build around in Simmons and Brown, two freshmen who looked comfortable going up against an ACC opponent.
SERIES COMING TO AN END?
Virginia Tech and The Citadel have played 21 times, including three of the four seasons that Williams has been the Hokies’ coach. But Williams hinted that Sunday night’s game might be the last in the series for a while, mainly because The Citadel’s unorthodox style of play creates havoc among its opponents.
“We probably need to pause it,” Williams said. “I just love Duggar. I love his story. You should write a story about his life - it’s incredible. His life and how it’s impacted his coaching career . I just have the utmost respect for who he is and what he’s fought through to get to this point. I cheer for guys like that, so when I can help them because of where I’m at, I want to do that.
“It’s (playing The Citadel) not smart on my part. The official asked me, ‘Why are you playing these guys?’ I said, ‘Because of that guy down there.’ We need to stop that. That’s not a good enough answer.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies head to New York City to take on St. Louis at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night as part of the 2K Classic.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs square off against North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina on Wednesday.
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