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Virginia Tech sizzles in second half against St. Francis
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Virginia Tech sizzles in second half against St. Francis

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BLACKSBURG — For the second straight game, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team did not dazzle offensively in the first half.

But for the second straight game, the Hokies clicked in the second half.

Virginia Tech shot a sizzling 64.5% from the field in the second half en route to an 85-55 rout of Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) on Thursday night at Cassell Coliseum.

Did Tech coach Mike Young give a great halftime speech?

“No. You’d be underwhelmed if you heard my halftime speech,” Young said after the game.

So did he make halftime adjustments?

“No,” Young said. “I told them [at halftime] there was not one shot in the first half that I questioned. I thought our shot selection was good and I want us taking the same shots, rhythm shots after an extra pass, and if you turn one down I’ll take you out of the game. Let it fly.”

The Hokies (4-0) led by double digits the entire second half.

In last Friday’s win over Radford, Tech shot just 34.5% from the field in the first half but 51.7% in the second half.

On Thursday night, Tech shot only 37.9% from the field in the first half.

“Just a slow start. We can’t keep having slow starts,” said Tech guard Nahiem Alleyne, who had 18 points.

Up 34-22 at halftime, the Hokies made six of their first seven shots from the field in the second half to build a 50-30 cushion with 13:29 to go.

Surely Young has been saying something inspiring at halftime?

“He gives good speeches,” said Tech center Keve Aluma, who had 18 points. “It’s more like, ‘You guys better step it up.’

“We got the ball in the post a little bit, too, and that helped us.”

The Hokies made only seven 3-pointers in the game but scored 40 points in the paint and were 16 of 20 from the free-throw line.

Tech has beaten all four of its foes this season by at least 20 points.

Leading just 23-22 with 4:09 left in the first half and shooting only 30% from the field at that point, the Hokies closed the half on an 11-0 run to build a 34-22 halftime cushion.

“They guarded us unlike anybody [else]. I don’t think anybody else will guard us [that way],” Young said of the first half. “They went under a lot of stuff and I think it stymied us. Just so surprised at how they were guarding. … You start to press a little bit.

“We were just kind of stuck in a gear there for a bit.”

The Hokies were 20 of 31 from the field in the second half.

“We just kept running motion [offense],” Alleyne said. “We kept getting to the rack.”

Alleyne was just 2 of 15 from the field the past two games combined, including 0 of 6 against Radford. But he was 7 of 10 from the field Thursday.

“I’m glad I hit a shot today,” he said.

Was he feeling hot Thursday?

“You [saw] the game, right?” he said with a grin.

Young said Alleyne had simply been in “a little funk.”

“You can count on him to continue to work at it and stay in the gym and work his way out,” Young said. “There was a time in his career when it would affect other areas of his game. It doesn’t do that anymore. He continues to guard. He’s the best backcourt defender we’ve got.”

Aluma also was effective — well, inside, at least. He made six baskets but was 0 of 5 from 3-point range, including 0 of 4 in the first half.

“Coach Young said at halftime if any of us turn down an open shot he’ll take us out,” Aluma said. “He wants us to keep shooting.”

“Keve had great shot after great shot,” Young said. “I wouldn’t want him to turn down any shot he had.”

Darius Maddox had 11 points off the bench for Tech.

Saint Francis (1-2) shot just 33.3% from the field.

“They did a good job of keeping us out of the lane,” Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. “They really closed down those driving lanes.

“They do a great job of contesting shooters.”

All four of Tech’s foes this season have shot worse than 40% from the field.

Young said his players have been taking pride in their defense.

“They’re responsible. They’re conscientious,” Young said. “We spend an inordinate amount of time in our scouting on how we’re going to guard this action, that action. … I’ve been quite impressed with their ability to take that [plan] on the floor … and do it.”

Va. Tech 85, St. Francis 55

ST. FRANCIS (PA.) (1-2)

Flagg 0-3 0-0 0, Thompson 4-10 0-0 9, Dixon-Conover 1-11 1-2 4, Giles 3-14 0-0 7, Land 2-5 0-0 5, Hargis 5-6 3-4 15, Harrison 1-4 0-0 2, Cohen 3-4 2-2 8, Coleman 1-2 1-2 3, Ruggery 1-3 0-1 2, McCabe 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-63 7-11 55.

VIRGINIA TECH (4-0)

Aluma 6-13 6-8 18, Mutts 3-8 0-0 6, Alleyne 7-10 3-3 18, Cattoor 1-5 0-0 2, Murphy 2-6 1-2 7, N’Guessan 2-3 3-4 7, Maddox 4-4 0-0 11, Pedulla 1-2 0-0 3, Ojiako 2-4 2-2 6, Kidd 1-3 1-1 3, Haynes 2-2 0-0 4, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-60 16-20 85.

Halftime—Virginia Tech 34-22. 3-Point Goals—St. Francis (Pa.) 6-23 (Hargis 2-3, Land 1-3, Thompson 1-3, Giles 1-4, Dixon-Conover 1-6, Harrison 0-2, Ruggery 0-2), Virginia Tech 7-20 (Maddox 3-3, Murphy 2-4, Pedulla 1-1, Alleyne 1-2, N’Guessan 0-1, Cattoor 0-2, Mutts 0-2, Aluma 0-5). Rebounds—St. Francis (Pa.) 29 (Dixon-Conover 6), Virginia Tech 40 (N’Guessan 8). Assists—St. Francis (Pa.) 10 (Dixon-Conover 4), Virginia Tech 14 (Murphy 3). Total Fouls—St. Francis (Pa.) 20, Virginia Tech 14. A—6,437 (10,052).

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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