Virginia Tech solidifying a defensive identity
Since the fall, Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg has preached defense. He said then, and has repeated since, that the Hokies needed to play tough defensively to win games.
Virginia Tech's 72-52 win at North Carolina State on Wednesday provided the latest example that the Hokies are buying into a defense-first philosophy.
"When we defend, everything else takes care of itself," Greenberg said, adding that the Hokies benefit when defensively "we're active and we're knocking balls away and we're alert. That's what we have to hang our hat on. And when we're doing that, everything gets easier."
The Hokies (19-4, 6-3) rank second in the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 61.4 points per game. Virginia (14-7, 5-3), which plays in Blacksburg on Saturday, ranks first in the conference, allowing 61 points per game with Tony Bennett's pack-line defense.
Virginia Tech, which has limited opponents to 39.2 percent shooting, has been able to create offense out of its defense. That was the case against the Wolfpack, as the Hokies made their first 10 shots of the game to push out to an early 26-7 lead.
"That's what I like about this team," guard Malcolm Delaney said, "we're so determined on defense, it's causing our offense to get better. And that's what made our offense so much better in the first couple of minutes. We got stops and we got to get some easy buckets."
Last season, the Hokies got away from a defense-first ethos. Virginia Tech ranked eighth in the ACC in scoring defense (70.7 points per game) and sixth in field goal percentage defense (42.1 percent).
But Greenberg installed a defensive mentality at the beginning of preseason practices this season. Virginia Tech has a list of defensive "absolutes," things that need to happen each time the players are on the court. Among them: take a charge, be first to the floor for loose balls, hustle in defensive transition. The coaches chart the players' effort in those categories in practice.
Now, Hokies players often first reference their play on defense and the team's game plans on the defensive end. Clearly something is catching on. And most notably, it has shown in the results that Greenberg's hope of instilling a sense of pride in defense has, indeed, caught on.
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