No. 16 Virginia Tech powers into Charleston finals

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — No. 16 Virginia Tech accomplished something it hadn’t in coach Buzz Williams’ five seasons — reaching an in-season tournament championship game.

If the Hokies are as locked-in defensively Sunday as in beating Northeastern 88-60 at the Charleston Classic on Friday, they could also leave with Williams’ first tournament title.

“None of us here have been able to do it, so this means a lot,” said Hokies guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who scored 20 points.

They will face No. 23 Purdue or Davidson for the title Sunday night.

Northeastern will play the Boilermakers-Wildcats loser for third place.

Virginia Tech (3-0) took control for good with a 23-2 surge the last seven minutes of the opening half falling behind Northeastern (2-2) 24-23.

The Hokies turned up the pressure which got their offense going.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Alexander-Walker, a sophomore who’s scored 20 or more points in every game this season.

It was certainly impressive to watch.

Ahmed Hill began the charge with a 3-pointer, then closed it with an even longer three that swished through at the halftime buzzer.

It was the second straight game the Hokies closed the first half strongly — and capped it with a long buzzer-beater.

On Thursday against Ball State, Virginia Tech broke a 24-all tie with a 19-5 charge the final seven minutes of the half. Justin Robinson hit a long three as his teammates headed into the locker room.

“I got excited,” Williams said of Hill’s three which caused him to break out in a brief dance.

Williams will be even more excited if the Hokies finish well Sunday. Before the tournament, he laid out his team’s results in recent early season events — they were third the past two seasons, in 2016 at the Wooden Legacy and last year at the 2K Sports event.

Getting this far, Williams said “is a great first experience.”

The trick now is managing the day off Saturday and the wait until Sunday night.

“The kids feel that, see that and hear that and their receptiveness to what we were able to do” so far is “very, very good.” Williams said.

Alabama 79, Ball State 61

Tevin Mack scored 20 points off five 3-pointers and Alabama recovered strongly from its first loss of the season a day earlier with a 79-61 victory over Ball State.

The Crimson Tide (3-1) face either Appalachian State or Wichita State for fifth place Sunday.

Ball State (1-3) lost its second straight in the tournament will try to avoid going 0-for-Charleston against the Appalachian State-Wichita State loser.