Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 21 points and No. 16 Virginia Tech beat Ball State 73-64 in the first round of the Charleston Classic on Thursday.
The Hokies (2-0) will face the winner of the Alabama-Northeastern game on Friday. If they face Alabama it will be a rematch of their first-round game in last season’s NCAA tournament that the Crimson Tide won 86-83.
Ball State (1-2) will face the loser of the Alabama-Northeastern game on Friday in the consolation bracket.
Alexander-Walker recorded his second straight game with at least 20 points and fifth overall. The sophomore guard shot 9 of 15 and grabbed six rebounds.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. added 18 points and seven rebounds while shooting 8 of 12 as the Hokies shot 46 percent and won despite missing 19 of 26 3-point attempts. Justin Robinson contributed 15 as Virginia Tech won the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Tayler Parsons led the Cardinals with 21 points and shot 7 of 13 despite dealing with an apparent ankle injury. Kyle Mallers added a career-high 19 points for Ball State, which lost its second straight game after falling to Purdue last weekend
Virginia Tech made its first three 3-point attempts before missing its next 11. The drought ended when Alexander-Walker connected and the Hokies ended the first half with a 19-5 run when Robinson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 43-29 halftime lead.
After Virginia Tech scored the first points of the first half, Ball State cut it to within 45-37 on a 3-pointer by Mallers, but the Cardinals were forced to use a timeout as Persons limped off the court.
Despite Persons continuing to limp on the floor, Ball State was within 49-44 on a layup by K.J. Walton with about 12 1/2 minutes left. About five minutes later, the Hokies took a 63-49 lead when Alexander-Walker got a steal, fed to Robinson who lobbed the ball for Ahmed Hill, who completed the play with a high-flying dunk.
—Field Level Media