BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech converted 23 second half free throws to pull away from Charleston Southern for an 87-59 win on Tuesday at Cassell Coliseum.
CSU (4-7) was able to take some positives away from its final non-conference game. The Bucs led for 8:39 in the first half against a Virginia Tech (10-1) squad that is on the fringe of the Top-25 and now on a six-game winning streak. Christian Keeling recorded his first double-double with career highs of 24 points and ten rebounds, CSU held a potent VT offense to 42 percent shooting and the Bucs out-rebounded the Hokies for much of the game.
Virginia Tech's mix of speed and athleticism, though, proved too much to overcome. The Hokies ended the first half on a 15-2 run to take a 39-27 halftime advantage and then built on that cushion over the final five minutes to account for a final margin wider than how the majority of the game was played. Ahmed Hill paced Virginia Tech with 20 points and Chris Clarke added a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Zach LeDay (14 points) and Justin Robinson (12 points) also reached double figures.
After the Christmas holiday, CSU will turn its attention the 18-game Big South Conference slate. That stretch tips off Thursday, Dec. 29 at the Buc Dome against Winthrop, the league's preseason favorite. CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh is confident his team will arrive at that contest having experienced plenty through a non-conference schedule that included four games against power conference opponents.
"Virginia Tech is a really good basketball team," Radebaugh said afterward. "They are really invested in Buzz's (Williams) system and play well together. They have great spurt-ability and a couple of runs were the difference. We did some good things that we can really grow on that we're happy about."
"We rebounded the basketball really well and defended an explosive team well for long stretches," Radebaugh continued. "Christian's aggression going to the rim is impressive and he's going to be a problem in our league. It's been a tough out of conference schedule with a lot of travel so our guys need a break and we're looking forward to it. Then we'll come back and gear up for Winthrop."
A parade to the free throw line defined much of Tuesday's second half. Virginia Tech went 23-for-26 at the charity stripe over the final 20 minutes, while CSU went 8-for-13. The fouls bogged down the flow in a game that saw a fast-paced, back and forth opening stanza.
Keeling pumped in 16 of his 24 after intermission to keep the Bucs within 12 to 15 for most of the period. He made two free throws to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 69-53 with 4:46 left before the Hokies ended the game on an 18-6 run. Matt Galloway's three-pointer was the highlight of that stretch for the home fans.
CSU jumped out to a 10-5 lead at the 15:14 mark, with an offensive put back by Jordan Jones and a Jamar Martin trey headlining the juncture. VT answered to move in front 16-12, only to see CSU counter with an 8-0 spurt. Jamal Thomas sandwiched two threes around a Martin layup to vault the Bucs in front, 20-16, with 10:28 remaining.
The Bucs would take their final lead of the stanza on a Keeling pull-up jumper at the 5:40 mark. Five different Hokies then scored to turn the game going into the break. Ty Outlaw provided the final bucket of the half with a three from the right wing on a set play following a timeout.
CSU will practice tomorrow before enjoying its Christmas break. The Bucs return to action against Winthrop on Dec. 29, with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. Liberty will follow the Eagles to the Buc Dome two days later on New Year's Eve.