Virginia Tech pulls away from Liberty to win 73-63
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Joey van Zegeren’s season opener last Saturday was one to forget.
He played just 19 minutes, scored four points and fouled out.
Van Zegeren got his game headed in the right direction Wednesday night, however, as he scored a game-high 17 points, and Virginia Tech used efficient offense in the second half to pull away to a 73-63 victory over Liberty.
Van Zegeren was one of four players in double figures for the Hokies (2-0), who won despite committing 19 turnovers and making just 16-of-28 from the free-throw line. Adam Smith and Devin Wilson scored 13 points each, while Justin Bibbs finished with 10 points.
Van Zegeren connected on 7-of-9 from the floor, leading the way on an evening in which the Hokies shot 61 percent (25-of-41). He also grabbed 10 rebounds for his career double-double.
“My teammates went to the basket and got good attempts. That’s the reason I got a few offensive rebounds,” van Zegeren said. “Devin (Wilson) found me several times. It was just playing our own game and playing in the flow that we like to play.”
A 3-pointer by Bibbs with 38 seconds left in the first half enabled the Hokies to take a 31-28 lead at halftime. Virginia Tech hit four of its first six shots to start the second half, taking a 40-32 lead on a 3-pointer by Smith with 17:25 remaining.
Midway through the second half, Virginia Tech scored on eight of nine possessions and took a 59-45 lead on two free throws by Wilson with 9:10 left - the Hokies’ biggest lead of the game.
“Our offensive efficiency through two games has been pretty good,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “Some of that is skewed because there isn’t enough data, but part of the reason that it’s skewed is because in the first game we didn’t turn it over (six turnovers against Maryland-Eastern Shore). Tonight, we kicked it all over the gym. I’d say we’re probably somewhere in between.”
The Flames (2-1) cut the lead to 65-59 on a jumper by James Johnson with 4:04 left. But coming out of a timeout, Virginia Tech got a short jumper from Smith with 3:33 to go, and Liberty didn’t come closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Flames only made one more shot the rest of the game - a basket by David Andoh with 28 seconds left. Liberty shot the ball respectably for the game (24-of-56) and out-rebounded the smaller Hokies (31-26), but the Flames really hurt themselves with 21 turnovers. Virginia Tech scored 27 points off Liberty turnovers.
“I was hoping we could tighten things a little more to see what would happen,” Liberty coach Dale Layer said. “We were about a possession short there of making it real interesting with three or four minutes left.”
Tomasz Gielo led Liberty with 13 points.
Virginia Tech: Hokies coach Buzz Williams served as an assistant on the staff of Liberty coach Dale Layer at Colorado State for four years (2000-04). The Hokies are 46-5 versus Big South schools. Virginia Tech leads the series 14-3. Justin Bibbs became the first Virginia Tech freshman to score in double figures in his first two games since Robert Brown in 2011. The Hokies had not shot better than 61 percent from the floor since 2011 when they shot 62.5 percent in a win over Monmouth.
Liberty: Layer served as an assistant on Williams’ staff at Marquette during the 2008-09 season. Liberty is now 5-33 all-time against ACC schools.
Virginia Tech is at home against Appalachian State on Saturday.
Liberty travels to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.