Virginia Tech men's basketball continued its run of complementary basketball on Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum with a 72-58 victory over visiting NC State.
It was the Hokies' second-straight win in conference play, marking the sixth victory in the last seven games for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are now 3-2 in conference play in their first season under Mike Young.
The offense of Landers Nolley was a story once again, as he finished with 29 points on 8-for-19 shooting, which was his second-highest point total of his career. His 30 points in the season opener against Clemson remains as his high-water mark for points in his first season of college game action.
Freshman Tyrece Radford added a career-high 18 points and Jalen Cone finished with 10, as the Hokies sprinted away from the Wolfpack in the second half en route to the 14 point win.
While all three freshmen enjoyed strong games offensively in regards to scoring, junior guard Wabissa Bede struggled once again to find his rhythm. Bede finished 0-for-3 from the floor with two points, marking the seventh-straight time that Bede has failed to reach double-digits.
However, despite not emerging as a serious scoring threat on Saturday, Bede's impact on the game was immense. In fact, Bede has been one of the most important players on the roster over Tech's recent stretch of success.
As Norm Wood of The Daily Press outlined above, Bede's penchant for taking care of the basketball and putting his teammates in the best position possible to be successful has been immeasurable.
Bede was tasked with defending NC State guard Markell Johnson for the majority of the game on Saturday. Johnson, who is one of the best guards in the ACC, entered play averaging over 13 points per game and has been a major factor in many of NC State's games this season.
But not on Saturday.
With Bede serving as the primary defender, Johnson finished with just 5 points on 2-for-14 shooting. Johnson also had five turnovers on Saturday afternoon. Johnson's inability to get things going with Bede's suffocating defense was as big a factor as any in the Virginia Tech victory.
In addition to his lock-down defense, Bede also had seven assists and only two turnovers, with his most crucial pass coming down the stretch off an NC State live-ball turnover.
With a little over four minutes to play, the Hokies stretched out to their biggest lead of the game at 11 and were attempting to step on NC State's throat.
Off a Landers Nolley steal, Virginia Tech was once again on a fast break. Nolley got the ball quickly to Bede, who hit freshman guard Nahiem Alleyne in stride for a dagger three, extending Tech's largest lead of the game to 14.
NC State called a timeout to regroup, but never recovered, and the Hokies eventually won the game by the same margin.
It's plays like this, and games like this, that define what Wabissa Bede is all about. He's tough, gritty, and makes winning plays for Virginia Tech basketball. It's what makes Mike Young gush over his junior floor general time and time again.
Sure, Bede should look for his shot a bit more...
But ultimately his impact on the game goes far beyond putting the ball in the basket. He's one of the most important players on the roster and is as big a reason as any that the Hokies have emerged halfway through January with a 12-4 overall record and a 3-2 mark in conference play.
Nobody expected the Hokies to be in the NCAA Tournament conversation this season. After losing the top five scorers, as well as their head coach, off of 2018-19's Sweet 16 team, Tech was picked to finish last in the ACC in the preseason media poll.
After Saturday's win, the Hokies moved to fourth in the conference standings. It's early in league play, but the returns thus far with a roster comprised heavily of freshmen is extremely encouraging.
This is a testament to Coach Mike Young and his extraordinary coaching, Landers Nolley with his consistency on offense, and Jalen Cone with his injection of timely shooting.
But maybe most importantly, it's a testament to Wabissa Bede, whose leadership on offense and tenacity on defense has guided Virginia Tech to unexpected success.