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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

The first half is just fine for Virginia Tech basketball

By Mark Giannotto

The Virginia Tech men's basketball team plays its third game in six days Saturday afternoon at Boston College, returning to the scene of where its NCAA tournament bubble began to burst last year. You'll remember when the Hokies visited Conte Forum last February, they fell behind 15-2 early and eventually suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season.

The Eagles, meanwhile, finished 2009-10 under .500, a campaign that ultimately cost former coach Al Skinner his job. That underscores just how disheartening the loss turned out to be. And it's a game that, when asked, Coach Seth Greenberg still gets agitated about.

"They won other games, too, last year," Greenberg said Thursday evening. "That’s the way it is. When you play in a good conference, the other team is gonna have players also and there are gonna be nights that you don’t play well. They punched us in the nose early in the game, and we did not respond very well. That’s what that game came down to. They knocked us back, and we never responded.”

And while Boston College (14-8, 4-4) is much improved under new coach Steve Donahue this year, so too are the Hokies when it comes to the first halves of games.

Over the past 13 games -- 11 of which Virginia Tech has won -- the Hokies have not trailed heading into halftime. During that time, they've outscored the opposition by 169 points, or an average margin of 13 points. Not coincidentally, Virginia Tech's two most recent losses to North Carolina and Georgia Tech came when the Hokies had just a single-digit lead going into the second half.

Further, when Virginia Tech lost four games in a row early in the season, it trailed after the first half in every contest. The Hokies' latest victory over North Carolina State provided the perfect segue as to why these leads have become so beneficial.

Virginia Tech didn't play particularly well in the second half, shooting just 37.9 percent, and was actually outrebounded after dominating the glass before halftime. But thanks to a 13-point first-half lead, the best the Wolfpack could do was close to within six points a couple times.

Senior Malcolm Delaney offered an explanation for this, saying it's all part of a fundamental change with this year's team.

"We’ve got a different type of team and a different mentality this year," he said. "We prepare better, just the mind-set of the team is on preparation and how ready we are to start games. Last year, every game we started off bad and then had to pick it up."

A good start on Saturday, though, is paramount because it's likely the Hokies last chance to score a win in a true road game against a team in the RPI top 50. Virginia Tech is currently ranked No. 61 in the latest RPI. Even with four losses in its past five games, Boston College is No. 41 in the RPI.

By Mark Giannotto  | February 4, 2011; 12:25 PM ET
 
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