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No. 15 Virginia Tech tops Gardner-Webb 87-59 in opener

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Isaiah Wilkins only found out on Monday that he would play rather than redshirt this season. The baby-faced 18-year-old freshman ended up playing a critical role in No. 15 Virginia Tech's season opener.

Wilkins, the 10th-youngest player in Division 1, scored 21 points as the Hokies fended off an early challenge from Gardner-Webb and went on to win 87-59 on Friday night.

''It was definitely an eye-opener,'' Wilkins said of his first regular-season game. ''The pace is much, much, much different than high school. It's more upbeat - I like it.''

Coach Buzz Williams certainly didn't regret his last-minute decision not to redshirt Wilkins, who came off the bench to play 27 minutes and shot 7 of 10 from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

''In many respects I thought he saved us tonight,'' Williams said, adding: ''He's smart and he has a feel for how to play.''

Nickeil Alexander-Walker also scored 21 points and Kerry Blackshear Jr. added 14 for the Hokies, who allowed Gardner-Webb to keep it close until after halftime.

Nate Johnson scored 17 points to lead the Runnin' Bulldogs (0-2), who crept within four points less than five minutes into the second half. Virginia Tech responded with an 8-0 run and then pulled away.

''I thought we struggled,'' Williams said. ''I thought we would play much better.''

Gardner-Webb shot 52 percent in the first half to Virginia Tech's 40 percent but trailed 43-33 at the break, thanks in part to 14 turnovers that led to 12 points for the Hokies. Gardner-Webb finished with 29 turnovers.

''I just think they tightened things up defensively,'' Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said. ''We struggled to get shots. I was really impressed with them defensively - the motor that they play with.''

The Hokies had five players finish in double figures and totaled 16 steals in the second-ever meeting between the schools. Virginia Tech also won in 2008.

Alexander-Walker said the Hokies can take a lesson from the Runnin' Bulldogs' brief second-half comeback.

''We have to be the aggressor at all times,'' he said. ''Now that we have a target on our back, we have to respond better.''

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: The Hokies were ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time since 2010, and their preseason ranking was the highest in school history. Before the game, Virginia Tech unveiled a banner honoring its NCAA Tournament bid last season. Williams' team reached the tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 1985-86.

Gardner-Webb: The Big South school will face two other Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, during a 12-day stretch next month. The Runnin' Bulldogs were picked sixth in the preseason Big South poll.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Faces Ball State on Thursday in the Charleston Classic. The Hokies won't play at home again until Nov. 24 against St. Francis (Pennsylvania).

Gardner-Webb: At Furman on Tuesday.

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Key Players
Min. Per Game
Pts. Per Game
Ast. Per Game
Reb. Per Game
Field Goal %
Three Point %
Free Throw %
  Offensive rebound by Justin Jenkins 2.0
  Jose Perez missed 3-pt. jump shot 4.0
  Traveling violation turnover on Ahmed Hill 7.0
+ 1 Jose Perez made 2nd of 2 free throws 34.0
+ 1 Jose Perez made 2nd of 2 free throws 34.0
  Jose Perez missed 1st of 2 free throws 34.0
  Personal foul on Wabissa Bede 34.0
  Offensive rebound by Gardner-Webb 34.0
  Justin Jenkins missed 3-pt. jump shot 35.0
+ 3 Isaiah Wilkins made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Jonathan Kabongo 48.0
  Bad pass turnover on Nate Johnson, stolen by Wabissa Bede 56.0
Team Stats
Points 59 87
Field Goals 21-45 (46.7%) 32-63 (50.8%)
3-Pointers 6-21 (28.6%) 10-25 (40.0%)
Free Throws 11-21 (52.4%) 13-19 (68.4%)
Total Rebounds 24 33
Offensive 2 9
Defensive 20 20
Team 2 4
Assists 11 20
Steals 3 16
Blocks 5 3
Turnovers 29 20
Fouls 21 25
Technicals 1 1
17 PTS, 1 REB, 2 AST
21 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
12T
away team logo Gardner-Webb 0-2 332659
home team logo 15 Virginia Tech 1-0 424587
Team Stats
away team logo Gardner-Webb 0-2 67.3 PPG 34.7 RPG 11.7 APG
home team logo 15 Virginia Tech 1-0 87.0 PPG 37 RPG 20.0 APG
Key Players
10
N. Johnson G 10.7 PPG 0.7 RPG 1.7 APG 54.2 FG%
1
I. Wilkins G 21.0 PPG 3.0 RPG 1.0 APG 70.0 FG%
Top Scorers
N. Johnson G 17 PTS 1 REB 2 AST
I. Wilkins G 21 PTS 3 REB 1 AST
46.7 FG% 50.8
28.6 3PT FG% 40.0
52.4 FT% 68.4
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
N. Johnson 33 17 1 2 2 2 4 4 7/12 3/7 0/1 1 0
D. Efianayi 31 12 5 0 0 1 6 3 4/10 2/4 2/6 0 5
J. Perez 21 9 4 0 0 0 4 3 2/4 0/2 5/6 0 4
E. Jamison 23 3 5 0 0 1 4 2 1/4 0/1 1/2 0 5
C. Turner 20 1 2 3 0 0 4 3 0/1 0/1 1/2 0 2
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
N. Johnson 33 17 1 2 2 2 4 4 7/12 3/7 0/1 1 0
D. Efianayi 31 12 5 0 0 1 6 3 4/10 2/4 2/6 0 5
J. Perez 21 9 4 0 0 0 4 3 2/4 0/2 5/6 0 4
E. Jamison 23 3 5 0 0 1 4 2 1/4 0/1 1/2 0 5
C. Turner 20 1 2 3 0 0 4 3 0/1 0/1 1/2 0 2
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
D. Laster 17 8 1 0 0 0 1 2 3/4 1/1 1/2 0 1
L. Dufeal 13 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 2/2 0/0 0/0 0 1
B. Miller 6 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 0
J. Cornwall 20 2 1 4 0 0 3 1 1/4 0/2 0/0 0 1
J. Jenkins 16 1 2 1 1 0 2 0 0/3 0/3 1/2 1 1
E. Valdez - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Alston - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Bryant - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 200 59 22 11 3 5 29 21 21/45 6/21 11/21 2 20
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
N. Alexander-Walker 34 21 6 5 4 1 3 3 8/15 1/4 4/4 1 5
K. Blackshear Jr. 18 14 4 0 1 1 3 5 6/10 1/1 1/1 2 2
A. Hill 34 11 6 1 2 0 3 2 5/10 1/4 0/0 1 5
J. Robinson 28 11 2 8 3 0 3 2 2/7 1/4 6/8 2 0
T. Outlaw 23 5 6 1 1 0 1 4 2/5 1/3 0/2 1 5
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
N. Alexander-Walker 34 21 6 5 4 1 3 3 8/15 1/4 4/4 1 5
K. Blackshear Jr. 18 14 4 0 1 1 3 5 6/10 1/1 1/1 2 2
A. Hill 34 11 6 1 2 0 3 2 5/10 1/4 0/0 1 5
J. Robinson 28 11 2 8 3 0 3 2 2/7 1/4 6/8 2 0
T. Outlaw 23 5 6 1 1 0 1 4 2/5 1/3 0/2 1 5
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB
I. Wilkins 27 21 3 1 1 0 0 0 7/10 5/7 2/2 2 1
W. Bede 16 2 2 3 4 0 1 3 1/4 0/2 0/2 0 2
P. Horne 17 2 0 0 0 1 5 5 1/2 0/0 0/0 0 0
J. Kabongo 3 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0
C. Clarke - - - - - - - - - - - - -
L. Nolley II - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Radford - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B. Palmer - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 200 87 29 20 16 3 20 25 32/63 10/25 13/19 9 20