SAN JOSE — A ferocious defense collided with an anemic offense and the result was hard to watch.
Virginia Tech handled Saint Louis 66-52 in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night at the SAP Center, after holding the Billikens to 18 first-half points.
The Hokies (25-8), making a third straight NCAA appearance for the first time in program history, tied a school record for victories in the season. They get the chance to break that mark Sunday when they face 12th-seeded Liberty, an 80-76 upset winner over Mississippi State.
Virginia Tech, whose No. 4 seed in the East Region is their highest ever, dominated from the start.
They had leads of 19-6, 26-8 and 36-15 on the way to a 40-18 margin at the break. That was one point fewer than Tech scored off Saint Louis turnovers in the half.
Saint Louis (22-13) twice got within 10 points in the second half but couldn’t overcome its hideous first 20 minutes. The Hokies were hardly artistic in the second half, shooting just 4 for 19, without a field goal in the final 6:55.
Nickel Alexander-Walker led the Hokies with 20 points and Kenny Blackshear had 15.
Tramaine Isabelle Jr., named Most Outstanding Player in the Billikens’ four-game run to the Atlantic-10 tournament crown, scored 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting and had five turnovers.
Tech ranks 11th nationally in scoring defense and that was problematic for the Billikens, who were 304th nationally in scoring offense.
Saint Louis managed only seven shot attempts in the first 10 minutes and at one point had twice as many turnovers (10) as field goals (5). The Billikens finished the first half shooting 33 percent, including 1 for 9 on threes, with 12 turnovers.
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports