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Virginia Tech slips away in 81-67 win over Pitt

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Coming off two losses in which it did not play particularly well and staring at the possibility of starting league play with an 0-3 mark, Virginia Tech desperately needed someone to deliver a marquee performance.

The Hokies certainly found their man in Kerry Blackshear Jr.

The 6-foot-10 post player dominated on the interior, scoring a career-high 31 points to lift Virginia Tech to an 81-67 victory over Pitt on Saturday.

Pitt (8-8, 0-3 ACC), which has lost three in a row trailed by 11 in the second half, but went on a 17-6 run, tying the score at 51-51 on two free throws by Jared Wilson-Frame with 12:37 remaining. The Hokies, though, scored the next six points, with Blackshear scoring four of them.

The Panthers again sliced into the Virginia Tech lead, cutting it to 69-64 on a layup by Terrell Brown with 2:22 remaining.

But Blackshear, as he did all game, answered, making a 3-pointer with 2:02 to go to thwart Pitt's momentum.

“With seven minutes to play, I thought we were in good shape,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We missed a couple of open ones. They converted. We took a couple of bad ones, and now all of the sudden, we're looking at nine- or 10(-point deficit) instead of three or four. So whether it's a squandered opportunity, they're a good team, and we're a team that's trying to learn and trying to become a good team.”

Blackshear made 12 of 16 from the floor in helping the Hokies (12-4, 1-2) snap a two-game losing streak.

“He was killing,” Tech guard Justin Robinson said. “I knew he was feeling it. I just told him to keep shooting. There is no reason why he shouldn't shoot. That's why we kept feeding him the ball.”

“I've got a bunch of shooters around me, and they were finding me when I was open,” Blackshear said. “It made everything easier.”

Blackshear made 5 of 7 from the free-throw line, and he even extended his game, draining a couple of 3-pointers. More important than racking up personal accolades, Blackshear helped the Hokies avoid an 0-3 start to league play for the first time since the 2014-15 season ­— coach Buzz Williams' first season.

“I think it's going to be the most volatile league year that it's been since I've been here,” Williams said. “I think we've created an expectation level at a very rapid rate, which I think is good, but it's also not necessarily stable. It's (the league) going to be hard.”

Nickeil Alexander-Walker aided the Virginia Tech cause by converting three 3-point plays in the final six minutes and finished with 16 points, and Ahmed Hill had 15.

Wilson-Frame led the Panthers, tying his career high with 20 points. He and Parker Stewart each made four of Pitt's 12 3-pointers , but the Panthers' 17 turnovers led to 22 Virginia Tech points.

For the second consecutive game, Stallings started five freshmen, and Pitt has some intriguing pieces, especially Stewart (12 points) and Marcus Carr (14 points). But the Panthers sorely miss Ryan Luther, who was averaging a double-double.

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