Virginia Tech knocks off No. 3 Michigan State in Maui Invitational opener

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Virginia Tech was left for dead when Buzz Williams skipped town for Texas A&M.

They lost their top five players, including Kerry Blackshear, who opted to leave the program as a grad transfer, off of a Sweet 16 team. When Mike Young was hired in April, he was hired knowing that the first thing he had to do was re-recruit the guys on his roster – Wabissa Bede, Landers Nolley, etc. – before trying to find enough players to build out a full roster.

There was, quite literally, zero expectation for him heading into this season.

Which means that everyone should be surprised by the fact that, after Monday night’s win in the quarterfinals of the Maui Invitational, the Hokies are sitting at 6-0 on the season.

Nolley finished with 22 points to lead five players in double-figures while Bede chipped in with 11 points and five assists as Virginia Tech knocked off No. 3 Michigan State, 71-66.

Aaron Henry had 18 points to lead Michigan State. Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s National Player of the Year candidate, finished with just seven points and two assists to go along with three turnovers and four fouls.

And credit for that has to go to Young and the Hokies.

Virginia Tech leads the nation in three-point rate and the percentage of points that they get from beyond the arc. After this win, where they shot 22 free throws and made 10 threes, the Hokies have finally more attempted free throws (79) than they have made threes (78).

This stretched Michigan State’s bigger bodies to the limit. They struggled chasing Hokie defenders around the court, and their inability to finish around the rim or punish Tech for leaving shooters by actually making the open threes they were given.

There is plenty of criticism to go around on the Spartan side, specifically with the way that Tom Izzo used his All-American point guard, but for now the credit should – and will – go to Virginia Tech, Mike Young and the players on that roster.

Maui always delivers, doesn’t it?