Alexander-Walker leads Virginia Tech over North Carolina A&T

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Nickeil Alexander-Walker and No. 13 Virginia Tech have played tough team defense so far this season.

Swimming along quite nicely.

Alexander-Walker scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half, and the Hokies beat North Carolina A&T 82-60 on Wednesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

The Hokies (10-1) went 15 for 17 at the free-throw line and enjoyed a 42-20 rebounding advantage over the Aggies. Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Justin Robinson finished with 14 points, seven boards and six assists.

Virginia Tech also held North Carolina A&T to 45.3 percent shooting (24 of 53) and forced 14 turnovers. Alexander-Walker had four steals.

“It’s going to take more of a group. It’s going to be together,” Alexander-Walker said, describing the team’s identity on defense. “It’s going to be all five. It’s going to be a unit.

“It’s kind of like synchronized swimming — everyone is doing the same thing at the same time, trying to move as the ball moves.”

Quavius Copeland scored 16 points for North Carolina A&T (4-7), and Milik Gantz had 14. The Aggies finished with 14 turnovers.

“To give yourself this type of chance in these games, you’ve got to be able to execute for 40 minutes,” North Carolina A&T coach Jay Joyner said. “You’ve got to play your ‘A’ game. I think tonight offensively we probably played ‘C-‘ and that’s not going to cut it. … Virginia Tech’s a tough team, and they played harder than us. We competed, but they played harder than us.”

Virginia Tech gradually pulled away after sputtering a bit in the first half.

The Hokies used a 12-2 run to open a 68-43 lead with 8:38 left. Alexander-Walker and Ahmed Hill capped the surge with 3s.

“I think our group has matured at a higher rate than normal,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I think that, through that maturity, there is distinct role definition that they understand. I think the work of our staff … has been as good as I’ve ever seen. Our entire staff. It’s not just the coaches. Everyone is specific to a role, similar to our players, and as time has progressed, we’ve improved in that regard.”

Hill made three 3s and finished with 11 points for Virginia Tech, which committed just four turnovers in the second half.

NOTHING NEW ON NOLLEY

The Hokies played their 11th straight game without freshman Landers Nolley II, who is waiting on an NCAA decision related to an initial eligibility issue. Nolley averaged 31 points and eight rebounds for Langston Hughes High in Fairburn, Georgia, as a senior last year.

“There is still an initial eligibility issue that is trying to be resolved, and I don’t know when exactly it will be,” Williams said. “If I thought that Buzz or Landers or Landers’ parents or Virginia Tech as an institution or the compliance department had not done the best we could, I would be more frustrated. The things that we can control in this situation … 1,000 percent we have done over the top the right thing and the best thing.”

TIP-INS

North Carolina A&T: Copeland gave the Aggies some energy, rebounding from a poor start to the game. He scored just three points in the first 20 minutes, but had 13 in the second half. He could play a key role for the Aggies when they begin MEAC play next month.

Virginia Tech: Alexander-Walker is turning into one of the ACC’s best players. He has scored in double figures in all 11 games for the Hokies.

UP NEXT

North Carolina A&T visits Minnesota on Friday.

Virginia Tech host Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 28.