NEW YORK (AP) — Javon Bess scored 22 points to lead Saint Louis to a 77-71 win over Virginia Tech in the opening game of the 2K Classic on Thursday night.
Jordan Goodwin added 19 for Saint Louis (3-0).
Despite getting a career-high 26 points from Ahmed Hill, Virginia Tech fell to 2-1. Justin Bibbs scored 15 in his first game of the season after sitting out the first two games for disciplinary reasons. Kerry Blackshear Jr. added 10 before fouling out.
The eighth all-time matchup between the Atlantic 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference programs was taut as St. Louis’ 61-49 advantage with 7:57 left was the largest lead for either team.
On the strength of an 11-3 run, though, Virginia Tech cut the deficit to 64-60. Four points is as close as the Hokies would get.
Davell Rovy’s baseline layup pushed the lead back to 66-60. Bess made seven free throws and Goodwin three in the final minute to help seal the win.
Benefiting an early-season game, there were areas in which Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Saint Louis’ Travis Ford to work on with their teams. For the Hokies, free-throw shooting was a significant issue as they made only 23 of 36 (63.9 percent).
Saint Louis made just 4 of 18 from the arc.
Saint Louis: The Billikens’ defense may already be in midseason form. Their 48 points allowed per game coming in ranked eighth nationally. While that number will rise, St. Louis’ defense routinely forced the Hokies into drawn-out offensive possessions.
VIRGINIA TECH: Generally, the third game of the regular season is not a precursor as to how a season will play out. And perhaps that will be the case for the Hokies. Still, following two season-opening wins by an average of 121.5 points, Virginia Tech was limited to 71.
ST. LOUIS: The Billikens improved to 3-2 all time at the current Madison Square Garden. The game was Saint Louis’ first at The Garden since the 1990 NIT Final Four.
VIRGINIA TECH: With the loss, the Hokies fell to 14-7 all-time at Madison Square Garden, including 7-3 since 2004.
The first of two games at Madison Square Garden for the 2K Classic for the Wounded Warriors Project had representatives from both schools. Rob Rinkenberger and Donna Pratt, both of whom served in the Army, were present for Saint Louis while Darren McEldowney (Army) and Barbara Hawn (Air Force) were in attendance for Virginia Tech.
ST. LOUIS: The Billikens will meet the winner of Providence-Washington in the championship game Friday.
VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies will meet the loser of the Providence-Washington on Friday.