CLEMSON, S.C. — Look who is 1-0 in the ACC.
The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team, which was picked next-to-last in the ACC’s preseason media poll, began the Mike Young era with a 67-60 win at Clemson on Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“We’re very underrated,” said redshirt freshman forward Landers Nolley, who had 30 points in his college debut.
Young not only won his debut as Virginia Tech’s coach but earned his 300th career victory as well.
“Don’t give me a whole lot of credit,” Young said. “I’ve got good players and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Young made his Tech debut in the state where he spent the past 30 years. He was the head coach at Wofford the past 17 seasons after serving as an assistant there for 13 years.
What did Young learn about the Hokies, who had to replace the top five scorers from last year’s Sweet 16 squad?
“They’ll fight you,” he said. “That accounts for something in athletics. P.J. Horne’s toughness. Wabissa Bede’s toughness. And you better have some toughness on that backside if you’re going to do this, and they did it, and I’m proud of them.”
Nolley, who was not cleared by the NCAA to play last season because of an ACT issue, had the most prolific outing ever for a Tech freshman in his debut. The old mark of 24 was set by Nickeil Alexander-Walker two years ago.
“I feel amazing,” Nolley said. “Playing my first college game, of course I was nervous. It’s a big step from high school.
“I was rusty. I missed my first two free throws. I was nervous.”
Worth the wait?
“It was definitely worth the wait,” he said.
Nolley was 12 of 23 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
“My teammates just looked for me,” he said.
“I finally trusted what my dad taught me in high school and kind of went to it more often, getting closer to the basket when I got a mismatch or stretching it out when I got another mismatch that can’t guard me on the perimeter.”
Young said he knew early on that the 6-7 Nolley would be a go-to scorer for him.
“About 20 minutes after I got on campus and we worked out,” Young said. “He’s a pretty talented guy. He knows how to put the thing in the bottom of the barrel.”
Bede, a junior point guard, had seven points, six assists, eight rebounds and a key block.
“This is huge. A huge win,” Bede said. “I’m so happy with the younger guys. This is their first real battle.
“We’re small, and we won the rebounding battle by eight [44-36]. That was big.
“They fought every single play.”
Bede and Nolley had both entered the transfer portal in April before deciding to stick around and play for Young at Tech.
“For Wabissa Bede to have every opportunity to walk away, … Landers Nolley the same thing, to re-up … I’m appreciative,” Young said.
Junior post player Horne (eight points), redshirt freshman reserve Tyrece Radford and freshman reserve Nahiem Alleyne (11 points) also delivered in the clutch.
“For us to win, everybody’s going to have to contribute,” Nolley said.
This was also the season opener for Clemson, which was picked 11th in the ACC’s preseason poll.
“Everybody in the whole Hahn-Hurst [practice facility] believed we were going to win that game. Nobody else outside of that believed in us,” Bede said.
Alleyne made two free throws to give Tech a 51-50 lead with 5:45 left.
Nolley made a jumper and two free throws to extend the lead to 55-50.
Bede later made a jumper to extend the lead to 57-53 with 2:06 left.
The Tigers tied the game at 57.
Tech almost lost the ball. But Bede came up with the ball and dished to Horne up the court. Horne dunked, was fouled and made the free throw, giving Tech the lead for good at 60-57 with 1:03 left.
Bede then blocked a shot, and Radford made a layup to extend the lead to 62-57 with 40.1 seconds left.
“Bede playing his guts out and getting to the top of his jump and blocking … [the] shot at a critical moment and making a nice delivery to Tyrese,” Young said.
Alleyne later made two free throws for a 64-58 cushion. Bede later made two free throws for a 66-60 lead with 21.2 seconds to go, then had another for a 67-60 lead.