CHARLESTON, S.C. — Justin Robinson saw his Virginia Tech teammate Ahmed Hill coming off the floor after a disappointing first half.
“We’re going to need you to win,” Robinson told him.
Hill certainly listened and was instrumental in the 16th-ranked Hokies’ first in-season tournament title in coach Buzz Williams’ five seasons with an 89-83 victory over No. 23 Purdue at the Charleston Classic on Sunday night.
Hill scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half and had the three-point play that put the Hokies (4-0) ahead for good at 80-77 with 3:50 remaining.
Hill followed with a 3-pointer to extend the margin. The Boilermakers (4-1) could not respond.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 25 points to lead Virginia Tech. He was named tournament MVP.
Robinson also had 23 points as the Hokies came from 50-38 down in the second half to win.
The Hokies jumped around in celebration when the horn sounded, giddy about the championship.
“It’s an experience that money can’t buy,” Alexander-Walker said.
Purdue’s dynamic guard Carsen Edwards finished with 26 points, the fifth time this season he’s had 23 or more points in a game.
The 6-foot-1 junior rose high for a left-armed jam and tied things a final time at 77 with his layup after stealing the ball from Robinson.
But he said there were too many late breakdowns that cost the Boilermakers.
“The good thing is that it’s early and we can work on this before we get into (Big Ten) conference play,”
It didn’t look like Purdue would have much to work on early on.
Edwards jumper late in the first half put his team ahead 41-29 while the Hokies struggled to find shots.
But, as Virginia Tech did in earlier Charleston wins over Ball State and Northeastern, the team roared back.
The Hokies held Purdue to 1-of-8 shooting in a six-minute stretch as they went from 12 points behind to 58-56 ahead on Alexander-Walker’s 3-pointer.
Williams said the Hokies began to put pressure on Purdue’s inside players and make sure when Edwards shot, it was not an easy, open attempt.
Edwards was 9 of 21 overall and made only three of his 11 attempts from beyond the three-point line.
The game’s pace the final 12 minutes after Virginia Tech’s rally was frenetic, a high-level display of basketball typically on display in a later postseason tournament in March.
It’s way too early for that kind of talk, Alexander-Walker said.
“We try not to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. But “we’re happy to see our work come to light.”
Williams was happy for his players and staffers Virginia Tech could taste some early success after the word the team had done in the offseason.
“I’m thankful for our kids, I’m thankful for their parents who believed in us and allowed us to have an opportunity like this,” he said.