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Posted at 1:56 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Virginia Tech finally gets chance at redemption vs. Virginia

By Mark Giannotto

The college basketball season is long. Almost six months long, if we include the start of preseason practices. So sometimes, deciphering between one game and the next, even if it's against a bitter state rival, can be a tricky proposition.

That seems to be the case with Saturday's rematch between Virginia Tech and Virginia. The Cavaliers defeated the Hokies, 57-54, to start off the ACC season back on Dec. 5. Ask a couple Virginia Tech players about it, and the details of just what happened that night are sketchy at best.

"I don't even remember that game," senior Malcolm Delaney said.

Added senior Terrell Bell: "Wow. It was a long time ago. I think Mike Scott had a really good game.”

Bell's memory serves him right, but it also provides a glimpse into what makes Saturday's rematch in Charlottesville particularly intriguing.

Scott put up 21 points when the Cavaliers left Cassell Coliseum with an upset victory, but he hasn't played since Dec. 22 because of ankle surgery. The Hokies, meanwhile, still had senior Dorenzo Hudson and sophomore Cadarian Raines in the lineup. Sophomore Erick Green, who became a starter immediately following the first Virginia game, was barely averaging five points per game at that point.

But the personnel losses have had an entirely different effect on each team. The loss to Virginia was Virginia Tech's fourth in a row, but the Hokies have won 13 of 16 since. Conversely, the Cavaliers have won just two of their past 10 games. For Coach Seth Greenberg, though, that December loss remains a vivid memory.

“It’s real relevant because it’s a home loss," he said, alluding to the black mark that loss has created on Virginia Tech's NCAA tournament resume.

Last time these teams met, the Hokies came out flat at home, scoring just 24 points in the first half and falling behind by as many as 16 points. Delaney and senior Jeff Allen combined for 38 points, but the other six players who saw action scored just 16 combined points.

In the past two games, though, offense has been the least of Virginia Tech's troubles, despite getting little help from its bench. The Hokies have scored 102 and 91 points, respectively, in their last two wins and all five starters have finished in double figures both times.

"Everyone talks about Malcolm and Jeff [Allen], and they’re both playing at an incredibly high level, but when Victor [Davila] is not in the game, we’re not as good," Greenberg said. "If Terrell Bell is standing around on the perimeter, not flying around, we’re not as good. If Erick Green isn’t carrying himself with confidence and being aggressive and active, we’re not as good."

But Greenberg did express some concerns about the Hokies' defense.They gave up just 58 points in a loss to Boston College two weeks ago, but Greenberg was unhappy with how his team guarded the Eagles in crunch time. In the two games since, though, Virginia Tech has given up 77 and 83 points, respectively.

Against Maryland on Tuesday, the Hokies' 2-3 zone was so ineffective that Greenberg had to switch to man-to-man in the closing minutes.

Expect more of the same against Virginia, which despite its offensive ineptness this season has a plethora of three-point shooters. The Cavaliers are last in the ACC, averaging just 58.1 points per game during conference play.

But with Scott out, Virginia has gone with a small lineup, something that Greenberg worries about. It likely means Allen, who has mostly stayed out of foul trouble in recent weeks, will be guarding a perimeter player.

“When we guard the ball, I think we’re a really good team," Bell said. "When we’re getting beat and people have to help and have to foul, it’s just not a good situation."

And with Selection Sunday fast approaching, the last the thing the Hokies' resume needs is another loss to Virginia.

By Mark Giannotto  | February 18, 2011; 1:56 PM ET
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The Hokies had a couple of terrible losses, one to Georgia Tech, and one to Virginia.

Hopefully, they can redeem themselves against Virginia in this game.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 19, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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