Alexander-Walker’s 18 carries Hokies past Morehead St 96-63

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech indulged in its final appetizer before the main course of its 2017-18 non-conference schedule is served.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 18 points to pace the Hokies in a 96-63 victory over Morehead State on Saturday.
Alexander-Walker hit 7 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, for the Hokies (5-1), who now gear up for non-conference games against Iowa and at Ole Miss over the course of the next seven days.
“This will be the biggest week of the program since I’ve been here in non-conference play,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said. “It’ll be the first time we’ve played two Power 5 teams in a seven-day period – one at home, one on the road. This is our fourth year. It’s probably the next right step for us to take, and it’ll be a gigantic step, in my opinion .”
Virginia Tech prepped for its future competition by shooting better than 55 percent from the floor for the fifth time this season. The Hokies, who hit seven of their first 10 shots and never trailed against Morehead State, finished at 57.4 percent (31 of 54).
Justin Bibbs added 15 points for the Hokies, who also got strong performances from Kerry Blackshear Jr. (13 points and nine rebounds) and Ahmed Hill (12 points).
Djimon Henson led Morehead State (1-4) with 17 points.
Breaking from their recent trend of slow starts, the Hokies used a 14-0 run early in the first half to break open the game, with Blackshear Jr. scoring six of those points. Virginia Tech also got it done on defense, holding the Eagles scoreless on 10 consecutive possessions during that stretch. The Hokies led by as many as 28 in the first half, shooting 65.4 percent from the floor (17 of 26).
“I think it’s (the start) important discipline-wise and maturity-wise,” Alexander-Walker said. “It shows growth. We didn’t just take it as any other game. We tried to improve, which matters a lot. Coach is really big on harping on never wasting a rep. We took every rep serious and every possession serious, and I feel like it helped us for later on in the season.”
The Eagles shot just 35.7 percent (10 of 28), committed nine turnovers and trailed 51-23 at halftime. For the game, they were plagued by 20 turnovers, which led to 25 Virginia Tech points.
“Absolutely, it was a huge role (in the game),” Morehead State coach Preston Spradlin said. “Bad shots and turnovers, they’re going to lead to baskets against a team like Virginia Tech that is really good.”
TIP-INS
Morehead State: The Eagles are rebuilding under Spradlin, who is in his first year as the head coach after serving as the interim head coach for much of last season. Morehead State’s roster features no seniors and 10 new players from a year ago, but the Eagles have some intriguing pieces, namely Henson, a sophomore whose 17 points were a season high.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies haven’t played the toughest of schedules in the early going, but they continue to score in bunches. They entered the game as the highest-scoring team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 103.2 points per game and did little to hurt that by scoring 96. They now have scored at least 95 points in five of their six games.
QUICK TIMEOUT
Virginia Tech scored on the opening possession of the game, getting a 3-pointer from Alexander-Walker. Afterward, Williams immediately called a timeout – just 34 seconds into the game.
“Everybody got a touch (on the possession), and that’s not what I drew up,” Williams said. “That’s what they did. So I just wanted to tell them, ‘Thank you.’ I did the same thing in the second half when there was a different grouping of guys on the court. I just think that’s a sign of maturity that they’re trying to do right, and I think that speaks to who they are.”
BAD START, PART II
For the second straight road game, Morehead State got off to a poor start. In their previous game against IUPUI, the Eagles trailed 32-25 at halftime after shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor. They wound up losing 67-61, and they struggled again in the first half against the Hokies.
“You take something from every game, and our last two road games, we got off to bad starts,” Spradlin said. “And you can’t do that when you’re on the road, especially against a good team like Virginia Tech. I thought we fought back, and we did a lot of better things in the second half. We got back to our game plan and believing we that we could play with this team. It was good experience for a lot of our guys.”
UP NEXT
Morehead State: The Eagles travel to Conway, Arkansas, to play Central Arkansas on Monday.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies return to action Tuesday night with a home game against Iowa as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.