BLACKSBURG – Jarell Eddie tied a career high with five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to pace a balanced attack, as Virginia Tech held on late to down Virginia Military Institute 105-92 in a nonconference game played Monday night at Cassell Coliseum.
The win marked the Hokies’ third straight after a season-opening loss to USC Upstate. VMI fell to 3-2 on the season.
Led by Eddie, the Hokies hit a season-high 11 3-pointers. Eddie shot 7 of 12 from the floor overall – including 5 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also made both of his free-throw attempts and grabbed six rebounds.
“The word with him is ‘efficient,’” Johnson said. “I think he took 12 shots and had 21 points. That opens it up for the rest of the guys. A couple of drives to the basket, if we drove it to Eddie’s side, they (the Keydets) didn’t want to leave him open and we were able to finish at the basket. When Eddie plays like that, he helps everyone on the floor out.”
Eddie’s shooting certainly opened things up for the Hokies, who topped the 100-point mark for the first time since the 2011 season. Five players scored in double figures for Tech, and every Hokie player who played in the game scored.
Freshman guard Ben Emelogu added 19 points off the bench for the Hokies and hit four 3-pointers. C.J. Barksdale, who was suspended for the first three games of this season by Johnson for a violation of team rules, scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in his season debut.
“We were going to have open shots with the way they played,” Johnson said. “We wanted to make the extra pass. Instead of having a good shot, we wanted a great shot. I thought the guys did a good job of being unselfish and making the extra pass.”
Tech led by as many as 20 in the second half after Smith’s 3-pointer with 13:50 remaining and appeared to be coasting toward an easy victory. But VMI started pressing, and the Hokies got sloppy with the ball. Eight of Virginia Tech’s 16 turnovers came in the final 13 minutes of the game.
VMI cut the lead to 98-92 on two free throws by QJ Peterson with 1:18 left, but the Hokies scored the game’s final seven points.
Barksdale scored on a lay-up with 1:10 left, and after a missed 3-pointer by Peterson, Smith hit a free throw to give the Hokies a 101-92 lead with 56 seconds to go. Trey Chapman then missed a 3-pointer, and Eddie got the rebound. He tossed it ahead to Barksdale, who broke free for a dunk to give the Hokies a 103-92 lead with 39 seconds left and all but seal the game.
“I’m not going to blame it on the young guys,” Eddie said of VMI’s comeback. “I had a turnover, too. C.J. and I ran into each other one time on a rebound, and the ball goes out of bounds. It was just a lot of sloppiness at the end. We didn’t close that game out the way we wanted to.”
“I didn’t think we were strong enough with the basketball,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be stronger with the ball and make better decisions. A couple of times, we threw it right to them. We’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to be stronger against the press.
“Our young troops found a way to win it. It was not pretty at times, but we found a way to win and that’s what you’ve got to do sometimes. You’ve got to grind it out and find a way to win.”
Peterson missed a jumper with 33 seconds left and then fouled the Hokies’ Will Johnston, who made two free throws with 31 seconds left to account for the final margin.
Rodney Glasgow and Peterson led VMI (3-2) with 22 points each. D.J. Covington added 20 points and five rebounds for the Keydets, who were out-rebounded 52-31 by the Hokies.
The Hokies now take a giant step up in competition, as they head to Brooklyn, N.Y., for a Friday night game against No. 1 Michigan State at the Barclays Center. The tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
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