December 14, 2014
Beyer's career day lifts Tech past Alabama A&M
By Jimmy Robertson
Alabama A&M (1-6) 203555
Virginia Tech (5-4) 362965
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 3,559
  • High Points: 13 - Christian Beyer
  • High Rebounds: 9 - Christian Beyer

BLACKSBURG – Christian Beyer scored a career-high 13 points in a rare starting role to lift Virginia Tech to a 65-55 nonconference victory over Alabama A&M at Cassell Coliseum on Sunday.

With the win, the Hokies snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 5-4 overall on the season. Alabama A&M fell to 1-6 overall.

Beyer, a walk-on now in his third season with the program, was making just the second start of his career and the first this season. The senior from New Bern, North Carolina, hit 5-of-7 from the floor, 3-of-4 from the free-throw line and grabbed nine rebounds in 27 minutes.

“I kind of had an idea earlier [Sunday] morning, maybe [Saturday] night based on practices and me getting reps,” Beyer said of getting the starting role. “He [Buzz Williams] just kind of threw me in there. It was exciting. I’m used to being thrown in there when energy isn’t where it needs to be or they need help on the boards. I saw it as a chance to show Coach Buzz that I’m that backup guy if he ever needs a boost off the bench.

“I’m not the most skilled player, but he likes to say it’s the intent of your heart. I feel like I have that. If I’m coming off the bench, I’m not a selfish player. I do want to see other people do well. I’m just the facilitator. I’ll clean up the boards and get some scrappy rebounds, things like that.”

Williams started Beyer and a former walk-on in Will Johnston, a senior who received a scholarship two seasons ago, along with Adam Smith, a shooting guard who had been coming off the bench. Normal starters Devin Wilson, Malik Müller and Shane Henry came off the bench.

The move worked out even though Beyer picked up two fouls in the first 1:24 of the game. Williams left Beyer in the game, and he tied his career high with nine points in the first half alone.

“We’ve got to figure it out,” Williams said of the lineup changes. “We’ve got to figure out how to play better. We’ve got to figure out who plays best together. We’ve got to figure out who plays hardest the longest. That’s not any name specifically. That’s just our program. We have to establish that regardless of the final score and regardless of the opponent. We’ve got to figure that out.

“I wouldn’t say anybody had a bad week [of practice]. We need to start having great weeks. It’s not bad or good or average. We need great. We need superlative. It’s anybody. That includes me. That includes our assistant coaches. We’ve got to figure out what our trademark is going to be and what we’re going to be about. Thus far, through nine games, we haven’t been able to do that consistently.”

The Hokies struggled with Alabama A&M until late in the first half. Tech used a 20-0 run spanning both halves to pull away and never look back. The Hokies scored 17 straight points to end the first half, holding Alabama A&M scoreless over the final 5:49 before the break.

Johnston hit a 3-pointer to open the second half for the Hokies before Michael Hutchins scored for the Bulldogs. Five different Hokies scored in the run, led by Justin Bibbs’ seven points.

The Bulldogs turned the ball over on five of their final seven possessions of the first half. Alabama A&M hit just one field goal in the final 11:09 – a 3-pointer by Matthew Cotton with 5:49 left in the opening half. The Bulldogs shot just 31.8 percent (7 of 22) in the first 20 minutes.

Tech led by as many as 19 points in the second half. Alabama A&M cut the lead to 61-55 with 1:50 remaining on a free throw by Rakiya Battle, but the Hokies got back-to-back baskets by Müller and Satchel Pierce to pull away.

“We took our foot off the gas pedal,” said Bibbs, who played mostly point guard in the revamped lineup. “We should have kept attacking like we did in the first half. We turned it on at the end, but we should have won by 20.”

Alabama A&M’s Ladarius Tabb led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Bibbs finished with 11 points and four assists for the Hokies, who committed just eight turnovers and shot nearly 50 percent (25-of-52 from the floor).

Williams wouldn’t commit to a starting lineup going forward.

“All of it is fluid,” he said. “I do think Bibbs will play regardless of position. I do think Med [Ahmed Hill] will play regardless of position. We’ve got to find more guys to consistently play possessions on both sides of the ball as hard as possible for as long as possible.”

The Hokies return to action next Saturday when they take on The Citadel at Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.

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