No. 25 Xavier escapes Virginia Tech behind Johnson’s 30
NEW YORK (AP) — Nate Johnson scored 30 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, and No. 25 Xavier beat Virginia Tech 59-58 in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday night.
Johnson was the only player to finish in double-figure scoring for Xavier (5-1).
“Nate was terrific,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “I’ve said this before: He’s the best shooter and I don’t think it’s even close. Those numbers will always bear themselves out over time.”
Nahiem Alleyne scored 18 points for the Hokies (5-2), who were coming off a loss to No. 9 Memphis on Wednesday. Hunter Cattoor chipped in with 13 points and Keve Aluma added 12.
“We’re not as good as we thought we were,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said. “We’ve got work to do.”
Xavier, which lost 82-70 to Iowa State on Wednesday, led Virginia Tech 45-37 midway through the second half before the Hokies began to rally, going on a 16-4 run to push ahead 53-49 with 3:46 remaining.
“The response was quite good in the second half,” Young said. “It did look like our team.”
Johnson tied it with a 3, Virginia Tech took the lead again, and Xavier’s Jack Nunge tied it 56-all on a 3-pointer with 1:56 left. After misses by both teams, Alleyne’s layup put Virginia Tech ahead before Johnson’s decisive 3. Cattoor missed a jumper at the buzzer for the Hokies and Justyn Mutts couldn’t convert a tip-in.
“We had a set play,” Cattoor said. “(Young) trusts me to take that shot. It felt good. … I told Justyn before the play, ‘(If) this shot comes off, it’s your tip-in.’ He was there to make a play and unfortunately it just didn’t go in.”
Xavier led 35-27 after a hot-shooting first half. The Musketeers shot 56% from the field, including 50% (6 for 12) from 3-point range, while limiting Virginia Tech to 37.5% shooting.
Xavier: The Musketeers had struggled from 3-point range, making 27.3% of their attempts before Friday night, but shot 10 for 22 (45.5%) from beyond the arc against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have reached the NCAA Tournament four years in a row and this team looks capable of extending that streak. Entering Friday, the Hokies had limited opponents to 35.2% shooting from the field, along with forcing 14.2 turnovers and blocking three shots per game. Xavier turned it over 14 times, but Virginia Tech allowed the Musketeers to shoot 47.8% from the field.
Xavier: Hosts Central Michigan on Wednesday.
Virginia Tech: Visits Maryland on Wednesday.
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