In his first collegiate game, freshman Isaiah Wilkins scored 21 points as did sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker to lead No. 15 Virginia Tech to an 87-59 season-opening win on Friday over visiting Gardner-Webb.
Wilkins was perfect in the first half, scoring 12 points on 4-for-4 from the field, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and sinking both of his free throws.
Alexander-Walker also recorded six rebounds, five assists and four steals to help the Hokies (1-0) blow open a close game after the Runnin’ Bulldogs (0-2) had cut an 11-point halftime deficit to 47-43.
Buzz Williams’ squad answered with a 12-2 run, which was punctuated by Ahmed Hill’s alley-oop dunk off an assist from Alexander-Walker for a 59-45 Hokies’ lead.
Neither Kerry Blackshear nor Justin Robinson — the two most experienced Hokies with Robinson averaging 14 points last season and Blackshear 12.5 points — were on the floor during the run. But when they did return, the Hokies kept up the offensive pressure and Virginia Tech opened up a 20-point lead on a basket by Blackshear.
Blackshear finished with 14 points and four rebounds before fouling out. Robinson had 11 points and eight assists.
The lead grew to 25 on another Hill alley-oop dunk with Alexander-Walker assisting again.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs turned the ball over 29 times and made only 11 of 21 free throws. The Hokies were only slightly better at the line, connecting on 13 of 19 attempts. Virginia Tech turned the ball over 20 times.
Nate Johnson scored 17 points and David Efianayi 12 to lead the Bulldogs, who opened their season on Tuesday with a 12-point loss to VCU.
Runnin’ Bulldogs senior forward DJ Laster was held out of the first half, but started the second and connected on a 3-point jumper to pull Gardner-Webb within six at 42-36.
Virginia Tech’s depth was tested, as foul trouble plagued the Hokies throughout the first half and in the early portion of the second.
In addition, the Hokies were playing without senior forward Chris Clarke, one of their best players in the 2017-18 season. Clarke, who averaged 8.2 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds last season, was suspended indefinitely by Virginia Tech last week.
—Field Level Media