Alumni Hall is a tough place for opponents to play at. It is even tougher for a Big East team who just happened to be making its conference debut. Just ask the Virginia Tech Hokies, formerly of the Atlantic 10 Confernce. The Hokies (6-6, 0-1) were greeted with open arms by the Red Storm who dominated them on its way to a 89-64 win. The win extended the Storm’s Alumni Hall winning streak to 27 games.
The only highlights of the night for the Hokies were three thunderous dunks by junior forward Joe Hamilton, who led the Va. Tech with 13 points.
Playing without guard Brian Chase and Dennis Mims, the Hokies were at a disadvantage from the start.
Chase had injured his shooting hand in practice on Dec. 22. He had been averaging 12.3 points per game.Mims was out due to academic suspension that took effect on Dec. 5. He had been averaging 10.8 points per game.
Point guard Omar Cook set the tone by connecting a game opening three. SJU jumped out to a 22-5 lead before the first timeout. Cook was perfect from beyond the three-point are, hitting all six shots and finished the game with 8-of-9 shooting overall. He was the first player to hit six threes since Bootsy Thornton did it last season against Ohio State.
Cook’s final line was his best of the season since the Kentucky game to start the season. He led all scorers with 23 points with 8 assists and had 6 steals.
“I think most of the players on this team were excited for this game, being that it is the first Big East game,” said Anthony Glover. “I think that we were more excited for this game than any other game.”
“Tonight we were the most talented team, and we also executed very well,” said Head Coach Mike Jarvis.
After struggling through its first nine games, the Red Storm (7-5, 1-0) have stepped up the intensity, which has resulted in three straight wins. “After a couple of losses we went back to basics,” said Omar Cook. “I think the losses helped us in a way.”
After trying to do it all in the early part of the season Cook has started to share the wealth. “After the first week of college basketball, I think I got a little out of hand,” said Cook. “I tried to do too much. We all can score so I just see it now more than I had seen in the beginning.”
The Red Storm never looked back as it had a 47-26 lead at the half and shot 64 percent from the field in the half. The second half was more of the same as the lead grew to as many as 28 with a 65-37 lead.
But it wasn’t just the Omar Cook show. Similar to recent seasons, several players scored in double figures.Anthony Glover finished with 15 points and even showed off his passing prowess dishing out 6 assists. Willie Shaw scored 16 points shooting 8-of-11 from the free throw line.In his new role as a starter, Alpha Bangura showed his scoring talents contributing 10 points.
For the second consecutive game, Reggie Jessie had a solid game off the bench shooting 6-of-9 from the field for 12 points.
Things are starting to slowly fall in place after a rough part of the season saw SJU lose three straight. “This is about building, trying to get the guys to understand the correlation between effort in practice and results in games,” said Jarvis. “When they came back on December 26th, it was a new much improved more determined group of guys.”
According to Jarvis there is still work to be done especially on the defensive side of the ball. “This team has the potential to be one of the best fast-breaking teams in college basketball,” he said. “If we could ever get better defensively then we’ll score a lot of baskets.”
Next up for the Red Storm will be a trip to archrival UConn on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies won’t be in such a festive mood as the Boston College Eagles upset the tenth ranked Huskies 85-68 Wednesday night.It only gets tougher for the Red Storm as five Big East teams (UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Syracuse) all hold spots in the Top 25 polls.