Virginia Tech advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 52 years by beating 12th-seeded Liberty 67-58 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Kerry Blackshear had 19 points and nine rebounds for fourth-seeded Virginia Tech (25-8). The Hokies’ only other trip this far in the tournament was in 1967 when they lost to the Dayton in the regional final.
Ahmed Hill added 14 points and Justin Robinson scored 13 to help the Hokies beat an in-state rival and advance to a matchup with top-seeded Duke.
Darius McGhee scored 15 points to lead Liberty (29-7), which won its first tournament game ever Friday against Mississippi State. Caleb Homesley was held to eight points on 3-for-11 shooting after scoring 30 points to fuel the first-round upset.
Liberty looked to build on that breakthrough win and a 9-0 run early in the second half put the Flames up by five. The Hokies tightened up defensively after that and Liberty missed 11 of 12 shots from the field – with six of the misses from 3-point range. Liberty also committed four turnovers and trailed by 56-49 on a layup by Nickel Alexander-Walker with about four minutes to go that capped an 11-0 run.
After Liberty made one free throw, Hill converted a three-point play off an inbound pass to extend the lead to nine points and the Hokies held on from there.
Liberty started fast with McGhee hitting four 3-pointers in the first half – twice as many as he had in the previous seven games combined. The Flames built an eight-point lead in the half before the Hokies cut it to 32-29 at the break on a 3-pointer in the final seconds by Ahmed Hill.
Liberty: Despite the loss, the season was a success for the Flames. They set a school-record for wins, won the Atlantic Sun tournament in their first year in the conference and won the first tournament game in school history after two losses to No. 1 seeds and another in a play-in game.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies made it through the first weekend of the tournament without a big contribution from star point guard Justin Robinson. The school’s all-time assists leader returned this week after missing 12 games with a foot injury. He looked a bit rusty in the first game but fared better on Sunday. He shot 5-for-9 and had four assists in 29 minutes, including a key basket late after Liberty had cut the deficit to five points.
Virginia Tech advanced to play No. 1 overall seed Duke in a rematch on Friday in Washington, D.C. The Hokies beat the Blue Devils 77-72 at home on Feb. 26 in a game Duke star freshman Zion Williamson and Robinson both missed with injuries.