Robinson leads No. 15 Hokies to easy win over VMI
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech is trying to add improved defense to its already potent offense.
Justin Robinson scored 18 points and the No. 15 Hokies held Virginia Military Institute to just eight first-half field goals in cruising to an 89-68 victory on Wednesday night.
Robinson hit a trio of 3-pointers for Virginia Tech (7-1), which won its 21st straight regular-season nonconference game at home. The Hokies topped VMI (5-5), which has lost three straight, for the seventh consecutive time.
Virginia Tech often beats opponents with torrid long-range shooting, ranking fourth in the country in 3-point shooting percentage (44.9) and seventh in 3s per game (11.9). The Hokies turned up the defense against the Keydets, effectively using their length against a smaller team.
“I think we’re turning the corner,” Robinson said of the defense. “We’re getting the principles down really well. We’ve been practicing really hard and learning principles of the defense we’re running. That’s really big for us. Knowing when to help, when not to help and playing hard the whole time … that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
Virginia Tech broke open a close game midway through the first half when it went on a 13-0 run. P.J. Horne and Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored four points each in that span, and then Jonathan Kabongo finished the run with a corner 3 that gave the Hokies a 30-13 lead with 8:11 left in the half. The Hokies led 42-21 at halftime and never were threatened.
The Hokies led by as many as 37 in the second.
Alexander-Walker finished with 15 points, and the Hokies shot 51.7 percent from the floor (30 of 58) and made 11 3-pointers. Virginia Tech also got a solid game from Horne, who made just his second start of the season and scored 12 points, hitting all six of his shots.
Garrett Gilkeson paced VMI with 21 points.
“We gave them too many catch-and-shoot 3s and obviously they kind of blew the game open late first half, or mid-first half into the second half,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “But I was proud of our guys for competing. We went with a smaller lineup late, and I think, rather than hanging our heads, we found a little confidence and competed toward the end and figured some things out.”
Virginia Tech: The past two blowout victories by the Hokies have afforded coach Buzz Williams the opportunity to work more players into the rotation to build depth for what has been a shallow squad so far. Freshmen Isaiah Wilkins and Kabongo both played in the first half. Behind Wilkins and Ty Outlaw, who scored 13 and nine points, respectively, the Hokies received 32 points and 17 rebounds from their bench.
VMI: VMI’s cold start continued a recent trend after the Keydets shot less than 35 percent in back-to-back losses to American and Longwood. VMI may have broken its funk in the second half against the Hokies, shooting 54.5 percent (18 of 33). The Keydets will need to continue that warm shooting if they want to enjoy any success in Southern Conference play, which starts this weekend.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies close out their three game homestand when they take on South Carolina State on Sunday.
VMI: The Keydets play the third of four straight games on the road Sunday when they take on Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tennessee.