CHARLOTTE — It’s not meant to be hyperbole when Virginia Tech’s Ty Outlaw says every basketball game he plays is a blessing. Given what he has endured over his career, Outlaw simply deems it as being honest.
ACC officials recognized Outlaw’s perseverance, too, presenting the graduate guard-forward with the Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award on Wednesday afternoon shortly before tip-off of the fifth-seeded Hokies’ first game in the conference tournament.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “I’m glad they gave me an award for it, but I wasn’t doing it for an award.”
Then the three-point specialist did his part to make quick work of No. 12 seed Miami, sinking three straight shots from beyond the arc to give the Hokies an 11-0 lead in the first 4½ minutes on the way to a 71-56 victory at Spectrum Center.
“Amazing,” senior guard Ahmed Hill said in the Virginia Tech locker room after the Hokies advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 4 seed Florida State. “Ty Outlaw for president!”
The unbridled enthusiasm from Outlaw’s teammates stems from knowing his story firsthand.
In 2015-16, after transferring to Virginia Tech from UNC Greensboro, Outlaw learned a heart condition would prevent him from playing. Doctors eventually cleared Outlaw, who returned for the 2016-17 season after taking a medical redshirt year and averaged 6.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.
The following summer, Outlaw tore an ACL, forcing him to miss another full season. He was granted a second medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, making him eligible for a sixth season as a graduate student.
Outlaw is finishing a degree in sociology this spring after graduating in May with a degree in criminology.
“For Ty to battle through much adversity, it shows his character, who he is as a person,” said Hokies guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who had 12 points and six assists Wednesday. “And what he’s gone through, it’s never stopped him, and he’s here today, and he’s doing well today.”
Outlaw scored all of his points in the first half to help twice stake Virginia Tech (24-7) to 20-point leads, including 38-18 moments before halftime until Chris Lykes banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer for the Hurricanes.
Miami (14-18) got within seven points with 14:54 left in the second half, but Virginia Tech reeled off seven in a row as part of an 18-5 run that doused any hopes of a comeback.
The Hokies completed a three-game sweep of Miami this season, winning their first game in the ACC tournament for the fourth time in five seasons under Coach Buzz Williams.
Outlaw made 4 of 8 three-pointers for his fourth consecutive game in double figures. He has made 15 three-pointers over the past four games as he nears the end of his college career.
“He’s really good, and they’re really good at finding him,” Miami Coach Jim Larranaga said of Outlaw. “So the problem occurs when somebody has to help you. If you can just guard your own man, then Outlaw is not open, but when someone is getting beat, then they just find the open man.
“Outlaw doesn’t dribble. Did he take a dribble today? I don’t think so.”
The clean looks unfolded in part because of Alexander-Walker getting deep into the lane on dribble drives and redshirt junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. constantly drawing a crowd in the post.
Blackshear, a second-team all-ACC selection, led Virginia Tech with 19 points and 10 rebounds, providing an ideal complement inside to Outlaw’s deft touch from beyond the arc in the early going.
Blackshear logged his eighth double-double this season, proving virtually unguardable in the painted area. Virginia Tech exploited that mismatch to the tune of a 28-20 margin in points in the paint despite a patchwork regular rotation without point guard Justin Robinson for essentially the past 11 games.
The senior has been out for six weeks while recovering from a foot ailment that at times has required a walking boot. Williams announced before the start of the ACC tournament that Robinson would not be available. Robinson’s status for the NCAA tournament remains unclear, although he was on the court in sneakers for pregame warmups with teammates.
Alexander-Walker has become the primary ballhandler in Robinson’s absence, and the sophomore chipped in 12 points and six assists against the Hurricanes, who have been dealing with roster issues of their own.
Lykes led Miami with 19 points but shot just 7 for 17. His final points came off a layup with 3:23 left in the second half, but Lykes landed awkwardly on his right foot while falling out of bounds.
Lykes, who played in high school at Gonzaga in the District and was The Washington Post’s All-Met Player of the Year in 2017, was helped to the locker room favoring his right ankle and did not reenter.
Outlaw also missed part of the second half while athletic trainers examined his foot before clearing him to return.
“If he has space and he has 10 toes to the rim, I think he’s an elite shooter,” Williams said of Outlaw. “The key is for him to get space, but that space doesn’t normally come from him. It comes from penetration by someone else and forcing help.”