Virginia Tech's resolve on full display vs. Maryland
It's almost hard to imagine now that just a month ago the fortunes of the Virginia Tech men's basketball team appeared bleak when senior Dorenzo Hudson and sophomore Cadarian Raines were declared inactive for the remainder of the season. Logic said that with eight scholarship players remaining and little front-court depth, the Hokies' NCAA Tournament chances were slim to none.
But with its 74-57 thrashing of Maryland Thursday night -- the biggest home loss the Terps have ever suffered at Comcast Center -- Virginia Tech announced definitively that it will not allow this season to drift away into irrelevancy.
The Hokies have moved up to No. 68 in the RPI, having secured their first road win over an RPI top 100 team this year. More importantly, they've won eight of their past nine games since falling to 4-4 last month, and look to be hitting their stride despite a depleted lineup.
Now, though, the Hokies enter a particularly dangerous stretch. They have just 48 hours to recover before a home game against Longwood (RPI No. 327) Saturday night, which is followed by a road trip to Georgia Tech (RPI No. 134) on Tuesday. Losses in either game would negate whatever positives came from Thursday night's big win.
Coach Seth Greenberg said any sort of letdown was addressed in the locker room immediately after the Maryland victory. The Hokies will simply have a film session Friday, instead of an actual practice. But Greenberg said his team knows what's at stake, and that "every game has got importance."
"I enjoy watching the way we’re playing right now," Greenberg said. "We’re making the right decisions. We’re playing hard defensively and we’ve just got to continue to do that.”
After the jump, check out three things that caught my eye Thursday night -- other than the fact that when forward Victor Davila is actually able to catch the ball (someone needs to buy him a pair of those sticky wide receiver gloves), he can be a very effective finisher underneath.
1) Erick Green -- There's no denying it at this point: Erick Green has been a savior this season. Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Penn State back on Dec. 12, he has yet to finish a game without scoring in double figures. Against Maryland he had his best showing to date, shooting 12 of 16 from the field and scoring a career-high 24 points.
Think about this: In the past nine games, Green has scored 126 total points (14 per game) and shot 52.2 percent. During his previous 37 games at Virginia Tech, Green scored just 116 total points (3.14 per game) and shot 30.2 percent.
Greenberg called Green's performance "just a monster game in terms of playing with great poise." He's also become the single biggest reason Virginia Tech has been able to stay on the right side of the bubble so far this year.
“Confidence is way up right now; I'm seeing a big basket," Green said. "It’s a big step. It was a great night for me, so hopefully I can keep it going.”
2) The defense -- Sure, Virginia Tech shot 53.6 percent as a team Thursday night, but once again, it was the Hokies' defense that brought them a victory. Using primarily a 2-3 zone, with some man-to-man mixed in for good measure, Virginia Tech forced Maryland to launch 20 three-pointers.
Forward Jordan Williams, meanwhile, didn't score for the first 15 minutes of the game and finished with just 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Hokies entered Thursday night ranked second in the ACC in terms of scoring defense, giving up just 60.3 points per game.
"I found myself forcing shots because I didn't get that many touches," Williams said. "So when I did get the ball I tried to be effective with it and I took some dumb shots."
(Speaking of which, Maryland fans are going to discuss ad nauseum how Maryland didn't get Williams involved enough, but lost in that conversation is the fact that the Hokies only got seven points from forward Jeff Allen and still won handily.)
But back to the defense -- whatever Greenberg has done with that 2-3 zone, it has worked wonders for this team. Not only has it kept Virginia Tech's front court players out of foul trouble, no team has shot better than 41 percent against the zone since the Hokies debuted it against Florida State.
Defense also was the main reason Virginia Tech was able to stave off Maryland's second-half comeback attempt. The Hokies strung together a couple stops and before anybody knew it, their lead had ballooned back into double digits and the Comcast Center crowd was heading for the exits.
"They went on a little spurt where they hit a couple threes, but we just stuck to our game plan and it worked," senior Malcolm Delaney said. "We took them out of everything they wanted to do.”
3) Malcolm Delaney -- I wrote extensively about how Delaney's pregame comments concerning Maryland's fans helped motivate him and his teammates. But the more noteworthy part of this whole situation was what it says about Delaney.
He essentially riled up the Terrapins faithful on purpose, as a way to give himself some extra juice for this game. He wanted to hear taunts from opposing fans and it provided him with more incentive to raise his game. In the process, he inspired his teammates to play at a higher level -- something Maryland fans should recognize since I thought it was very Grevious-esque.
I thought Delaney's best two plays of the game came in the second half, when he somehow found Davila for easy layups with the shot clock about to expire. Whatever momentum Maryland had thanks to Cliff Tucker's 11-point burst was stifled at that point.
And frankly, it was symbolic of how this season has developed. Delaney and the Hokies refuse to back down from a challenge, whether it be of their own making, an opponents' strong play or just plain bad luck.
“This is the most fun I had all year; one of the most fun games I’ve had since I’ve been here," Delaney said. "It was good to come out here and get a win at Maryland, but to see the team step up like this in one of these games is definitely better than that.”
| January 21, 2011; 10:44 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Virginia Tech-Maryland: Malcolm Delaney could shine in homecoming
Next: Malcolm Delaney says Maryland fans threw 'hard object' at his mom Thursday
Posted by: postfan1 | January 21, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | January 21, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: charley42 | January 21, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LAHokie22 | January 21, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | January 21, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JEGman | January 21, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LAHokie22 | January 21, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: joet11 | January 21, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse