Virginia Tech forwards Joey Van Zegeren (2) and Christian Beyer (22) celebrate after Tuesday’s 87-82 win over West Virginia in Blacksburg. (AP Photo)
BLACKSBURG — On the day Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver announced his retirement effective at the end of the year, he received a rather sweet retirement gift courtesy of one of the Hokies’ teams.
“It was a good day to give him a victory over West Virginia,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “That’s a good retirement present from the men’s basketball team.”
Freshman Ben Emelogu scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Hokies past the Mountaineers 87-82 on Tuesday.
Adam Smith added 19 points for the Hokies (1-1), who rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half and avenged last season’s 68-67 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va. Smith scored seven of Virginia Tech’s last nine points, making several key plays in the final minute.
His three-point play with 33.2 seconds to play gave the Hokies an 83-79 lead. West Virginia’s Remi Dibo then hit a 3-pointer with 23.7 seconds left to cut the lead to one, but Smith answered, hitting two free throws to push the lead to 85-82 with 16.2 seconds remaining.
West Virginia (1-1) had a chance to tie the game, but Nathan Adrian’s 3-pointer was short, and Hokies freshman Devin Wilson got the rebound. Wilson made two free throws with five seconds left to seal the game for Virginia Tech.
“I think this is a sign,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got some young guys who can do some things, and we’ve got to continue to hang in there. It’s going to be up and down for them, but at least we’ve got multiple guys. If one guy is down, we’ve got some guys who maybe can step up. Tonight, we were able to get those three young guys (Emelogu, Wilson and Smith, who is a redshirt sophomore) in double figures, and that was encouraging.”
Smith hit 7 of 12 shots from the floor for the Hokies, who shot 45.6 percent from the floor (26-of-57), including 60.9 percent in the second half (14-of-23). He was just 3-for-10 from the floor in Virginia Tech’s loss to USC Upstate in its season opener.
“We didn’t dwell on last Saturday’s game,” Smith said. “We just looked forward. Everything was focusing on West Virginia. We didn’t have our heads down. We came out ready to win.”
Emelogu scored 13 of his 22 in the first half, rallying the Hokies from that 17-point deficit. Virginia Tech went on a 12-1 run that ended with Emelogu’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to 41-36 at halftime. The Hokies then scored the first eight points of the second half, using that 20-1 run spanning both halves to get back into the game.
“We screwed the game up in the first half,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “I’ve got a whole bunch of freshmen who don’t understand how hard you have to play. We got up, and we stopped guarding. And when you stop guarding, people take advantage of you.
“It’s like your kids. You try to do the best job you can of telling your kids what is going to happen. Most of the time, they don’t listen either. You’ve already been through it, so you’re trying to say, ‘Don’t make the same mistakes I made,’ and they just make the same mistakes their parents made. I guess that’s what it is. I’ve told them and told them that you can’t take plays off, and we continually take plays off.”
Wilson finished with 16 points for the Hokies, making 4 of 7 shots from the floor and all eight of his free throw attempts. Jarell Eddie had 10 points — all in the second half.
Dibo led West Virginia with 17 points ad Eron Harris added 16 for the Mountaineers, who shot just 35.7 percent from the floor (25-of-70).