Hill carries Virginia Tech past Ole Miss 80-75
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams consistently cites Ahmed Hill as the toughest player in his program.
So it came as no surprise to him that Hill made the big plays in the final minute of a close non-conference game.
“I’ve been to where Med grew up,” Williams said. “He’ll be fine in the toughest situation you can create.”
Hill scored 20 points to lead the Hokies to an 80-75 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday.
Hill hit 5 of 10 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc for Virginia Tech (8-1), which won its fourth straight game. Zach LeDay added 15 points.
Sebastian Saiz led the Rebels (6-3) with 21 points.
Ole Miss trailed the entire second half, including 68-54 with a little more than five minutes left to play, but the Rebels scored on six straight possessions. They hit three 3-pointers in that span to cut the lead to 71-70 on a basket by Cullen Neal with 1:224 remaining.
But the Hokies went to Hill, and he responded, scoring six points in the final minute. He drained a jumper with 59 seconds left to push the lead to 73-70. He also hit four free throws in the final 16.6 seconds to help the Hokies hold on.
“We’re trying to work on finishing better,” Hill said. “Last year, we didn’t finish as well, and Buzz is trying to teach us how to finish better in the second half. We’re learning every day.”
Hill made 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, but the Hokies connected on just 60 percent of their free-throw attempts (18 of 30). Virginia Tech was able to make up for it by hitting 10 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“If they get penetration, because of their spacing and ball movement, they’re going to find the open guy,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “You’ve got three of their five guys typically making 3′s — and then (Chris) Clarke throws one in. And LeDay throws one in. It doesn’t do good for the other team.”
Ole Miss needs to shore up its perimeter defense if it harbors any hopes of postseason play. The Rebels gave up 10 3-pointers to Virginia Tech and have allowed at least eight 3s in eight of nine games this season.
Virginia Tech added another impressive win to its resume, as it seeks a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss came in ranked No. 26 in the Ratings Percentage Index. The Hokies also have non-conference wins against New Mexico, Nebraska and Michigan.
QUOTE TO NOTE
Virginia Tech post player Khadim Sy scored the Hokies’ first three baskets of the second half, forcing Kennedy to stop playing a 1-3-1 zone and go to a man-to-man defense — which the Hokies exploited. Sy, a native of Senegal, scored just the six points, but had an impact on the game and has a huge fan in his coach Williams.
“He’s like Eddie Murphy in ‘Coming to America,’” Williams said. “He’s just happy to be here. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s good. He doesn’t have a lot of bad voices in his head. He wants to do what you ask him to do.”
The Rebels return to action Thursday with a home game against Murray State for the first of three straight non-conference home games before opening SEC play against No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 29
The Hokies are in exams this week and don’t return to the court until Saturday when they continue non-conference play with a home game against The Citadel. Virginia Tech is a combined 23-2 all-time versus its next three opponents.