Hill carries Virginia Tech past cold-shooting Hawkeyes
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — As the nation’s leading scoring team heading into Tuesday night’s games, Virginia Tech tried a different approach toward finding success.
That approach worked, too.
Ahmed Hill scored 18 points to lift the Hokies to a 79-55 victory over Iowa on Tuesday night.
Hill hit 6 of 13 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, for Virginia Tech (6-1), which blew open a tied game at halftime with a big run early in the second half. P.J. Horne added 16 points for the Hokies, and Justin Bibbs had 14.
The run, though, wasn’t necessarily the story of the game for Virginia Tech. The Hokies played their best game of the season on defense and held their own against the bigger Hawkeyes on the boards, grabbing 28 second-half rebounds.
“I thought the difference in the second half was our defensive rebounding — only giving them one shot,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought we started really, really good. I think we played the first 15 minutes without them getting an offensive rebound, and I thought that was key.”
The Hokies broke open the game with a 20-1 run early in the second half, with Bibbs scoring nine of Virginia Tech’s points in the run. The Hokies scored on 11 of 15 possessions, taking a tied game and expanding their lead to 60-41 during a span of a little more than eight minutes.
Iowa (4-3), which lost for the third time in four games, made its first basket of the second half — a jumper by Tyler Cook with 19:11 remaining — but then missed 17 consecutive shots. During that eight-minute span, the Hawkeyes scored just a point, which came on a free throw by Cook with 12:52 remaining.
“We missed a couple of open shots early,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffrey said. “We made one 3 in the second half. When they made that run and got it (the lead) to 10 pretty quickly, I thought we got a little 3 happy there instead of trying to get it inside a little bit more and drive it a little bit more, keeping them on defense a little bit more and try to chip away at it.
“At the same token, we had some guys that had some clean looks. They just didn’t make them. Fourteen turnovers are probably too many against this team. Turnovers and bad shots are usually points for them.”
After shooting 51.7 percent in the first half (15 of 29), Iowa made just seven field goals in the final 20 minutes. The Hawkeyes’ 33.3 percent shooting (22 of 66) was their worst of the season, and the worst by a Virginia Tech opponent this season.
“We thought we had this in us,” Hill said. “We knew the scouting report very well from the coaches. We knew what we had to do to get stops, so we just had to execute it.”
Cook paced the Hawkeyes with 16 points.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes came into the game hoping that the return of co-captain Nicholas Baer and junior forward Ahmad Wagner would provide a spark. But Baer, a 6-foot-7 forward who missed the first six games because of a broken bone in his lefty pinky finger, scored five points and made just 2 of 9 from the floor. Wagner, who missed Iowa’s previous game with a shoulder injury, scored just two points on 1 of 3 shooting.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 102 points per game, came up short of the century mark against a Big Ten foe, but got another fantastic performance from their bench. Virginia Tech’s bench came into the game averaging 26.7 points per game, and the bench combined to score 31 against the Hawkeyes.
HORNE OF PLENTY
Horne, an undersized forward for the Hokies, probably wasn’t prominently mentioned on Iowa’s scouting report. He came into the game averaging 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds, but the freshman found himself in the middle of the action after starter Kerry Blackshear Jr. picked up two early fouls. Horne made the most of his opportunity, scoring 16 against the Hawkeyes and hitting 6 of 7 from the floor in a career-best 21 minutes.
“P.J.’s comfortable with who he is through the first three weeks of his college career because he doesn’t try to do anything other than what he can do,” Williams said.
“P.J. stepped up big for us,” Hill said. “I think he was the player of the game. I’m very excited for him.”
Iowa: The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday for their Big Ten home opener against Penn State.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies play their first true road game of this season on Saturday when they travel to Ole Miss.