EditorsNote: Edit 1: Clarified sequence in second graf.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 20 points, point guard Justin Robinson made a successful return from injury and No. 4 seed Virginia Tech withstood a second-half charge to beat Saint Louis 66-52 in an East Region first-round game in San Jose, Calif., on Friday night.
The 13th-seeded Billikens trimmed a 22-point halftime deficit to 10 halfway through the period but failed to get closer, going about six minutes without a basket.
Robinson, the school’s career assists leader who has been out since Jan. 30 because of a foot injury, came off the bench and helped spark the Hokies with nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 27 minutes.
Alexander-Walker made 8 of 13 shots and grabbed six rebounds.
Virginia Tech (25-8) won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2007 and will play 12th-seeded Liberty on Sunday in the second round. The Flames, who upset Mississippi State 80-76, won in the NCAA tourney for the first time in their history.
Javon Bess scored 14 points to lead three Saint Louis players in double figures. D.J. Foreman scored 12 and Tramaine Isabell Jr. had 11. Hasahn French posted nine points and eight rebounds.
Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 15 points, making 11 of 12 free-throw attempts.
The Hokies led 40-18 at halftime before Saint Louis showed signs of life by scoring the first eight points after the break.
The Billikens (23-13) later took a chunk out of Tech’s lead when Isabell drilled 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to make it 51-41 with 10:23 to go.
Virginia Tech, establishing its presence in the paint and went on an early 10-0 run to take a 19-6 lead, forcing six turnovers from the Billikens. During that spurt, Robinson entered with 13:39 to go.
Robinson’s 3-pointer with 8:29 left capped a 17-2 run for a 26-8 advantage. The Hokies had 26 points in the paint at halftime. The Billikens missed their first eight attempts from behind the 3-point arc.
—Field Level Media