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Justin Robinson sparks Virginia Tech to second round win over Liberty

Liberty v Virginia Tech

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Justin Robinson #5 of the Virginia Tech Hokies shoots against Elijah Cuffee #10 of the Liberty Flames in the second half during the second round of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at SAP Center on March 24, 2019 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

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Buzz Williams must be happy to have his point guard back.

Justin Robinson finished with 13 points and four assists off the bench, but 10 of those 13 points and all four of those assists came after No. 12-seed Liberty had taken a 26-18 lead on Virginia Tech late in the first half of the second round tilt in San Jose.

He sparked an 18-6 surge that spanned both halves and had a pair of assists in another 11-3 run early in the second half as the Hokies landed a come-from-behind, 67-58 win over the upset-minded Flames.

Robinson missed 12 games late in the season with an undisclosed foot injury that he suffered on Jan. 30th. He say out the close of the regular season. He sat out the ACC tournament. He was not officially cleared to play until three hours before the Selection Show aired, and even now, it’s hard to fathom him being back to 100 percent already.

But if he is going to ever get healthy, now is the time.

Because looming on the horizon for the Hokies is the No. 1 team in this tournament: The Duke Blue Devils, fresh off of a massive scare in a 77-76, referee-assisted win over UCF on Sunday.

I actually think that the Hokies matchup pretty well with this Duke team. What they did to the Blue Devils when they beat Duke in Blacksburg was a clinical display of coaching from Williams. Virginia Tech spread the floor with shooters and spent the entire game putting Kerry Blackshear in ball-screen actions. The result was Duke’s worst defensive performance of the season.

But that came without the presence of Zion Williamson on the floor. This was one of the five games that he missed with injury, and if we’ve learned anything about Duke this season, it’s that Zion is the difference-maker.

I bring this up because that game was also played without Robinson, and one can easily make the argument that Robinson is as important to Virginia Tech as Zion is to Duke.

Especially when discussing the way that the Hokies are going to try and play against the Blue Devils.

Robinson is the career assists leader at Virginia Tech. He’s shooting 41 percent from three this season and has never shot under 35 percent in his college career. He thrives in ball-screens actions and, most importantly, he moves Nickeil Alexander-Walker -- Virginia Tech’s most talented player -- into his best position, as a secondary ball-handler.

With a healthy Robinson, the Hokies were a top ten team in January.

We’ll see if they are in March, too.