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Posted at 11:09 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Struggling Georgia Tech limps into rematch with Virginia Tech

By Mark Giannotto

At the time, most everyone realized Virginia Tech's loss at Georgia Tech on Jan. 25 could ultimately be something of a black mark on the Hokies' NCAA tournament resume. And now that the Yellow Jackets are set to come to Blacksburg for a Sunday afternoon rematch, that premonition has been proven true.

Georgia Tech hasn't won since its 72-57 victory over the Hokies -- a span of four games -- including a 72-63 loss to Florida State Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets are now 175th in the RPI and sit in 10th place in the ACC standings, ahead of only North Carolina State and Wake Forest.

Making matters worse is the fact that sophomore Brian Oliver, who scored 28 points while shredding Virginia Tech's 2-3 zone when these teams last met, will miss the next 2-3 weeks after breaking his left thumb. In his stead Thursday night, Iman Shumpert and Glen RIce Jr. scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, but it took them a combined 51 shots to do it.

Perhaps that contributed to Georgia Tech shooting a cringe-worthy 19.4 percent from the floor in the first half -- and 29.9 percent overall -- during its loss to the Seminoles. Three Yellow Jacket starters didn't even register a point.

"The effort level is there and I am pleased with it 100 percent," Coach Paul Hewitt said. "We just have to get more around the bucket and finish."

All of this underscores that the Hokies simply can't afford to get swept by Georgia Tech this year. While a win won't help Virginia Tech's tournament chances much, a loss would be devastating.

That, though, is easier said than done, especially after Shumpert gave the Hokies fits in Atlanta two weeks ago. He registered the only triple-double in the ACC this year, and forced senior Malcolm Delaney into a disastrous eight-point, eight-turnover evening. Sophomore Erick Green wasn't much better, shooting 3 of 15 from the field at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

On Friday, Delaney was named to the Naismith Award midseason watch list.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, trailed by just two points with 6 minutes 6 seconds remaining, but didn't hit a shot from that point on as Georgia Tech closed the game on a 15-2 run. Afterward, Coach Seth Greenberg was upset with how his team handled crunch time, saying the last six minutes were "absolutely horrific."

And while the Hokies rebounded from that disappointment with two wins in a row, they haven't exactly been the most consistent team of late. In this humble beat writer's opinion, Virginia Tech's play has gradually regressed since its resounding road win over Maryland last month.

But coming off last Saturday's loss to Boston College, the Hokies have had a week to recharge their batteries for the stretch run.

Greenberg said Monday he hopes the team can "get back to our defensive fundamentals, which I think have slipped a little bit these past few weeks because we’ve played so many games and we’ve been a little cautious in practice. ... I think this time of season sometimes you need to go back and get back to your foundation, which sometimes you don’t have a chance to do with three games in six days two weeks in a row."

Greenberg and players aren't available to the media until later Friday afternoon, but here's a couple other quick notes to keep in mind heading into Sunday:

***As ESPN's Jay Bilas noted on twitter the other day, forward Jeff Allen is just three blocks shy of becoming the first-ever ACC player to have more than 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 150 blocks. That lofty accomplishment just goes to show how well Allen is playing right now. He's got four-straight double-doubles and to me, has been this team's MVP thus far.

***You'll notice that how well Delaney and Green play is increasingly becoming the barometer for how well the Hokies do. In Virginia Tech's past two losses, Delaney and Green are shooting a combined 12 of 51 (23.5 percent) from the field, averaging 18.5 points per game and have just 8 assists and 13 turnovers.

In the Hokies' previous five wins, though, those numbers jump to 53 of 111 (47.7 percent) from the field, 32.6 points per game, and 48 assists and 11 turnovers.

***In the good news department, as of Friday morning The Post's Eric Prisbell has Virginia Tech as one of his last four teams in the tournament. Obviously that would change if the Hokies suffer another let down against Georgia Tech this weekend.

By Mark Giannotto  | February 11, 2011; 11:09 AM ET
 
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Next: Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen on a double-double tear

Comments

I'd love to see Virginia Tech win this one on Sunday.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 12, 2011 2:26 AM | Report abuse

Domination.

Posted by: LAHokie22 | February 13, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

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