No Adam Smith (15 PPG)? No Ben Emelogu (14.3 PPG)? No problem! With just 8 scholarship players dressed (counting one former walk-on) and without their 2nd or 3rd leading scorers, Virginia Tech needed a huge game from their leading scorer, and they got it. Jarell Eddie scored a career high 34 points (surpassing his previous high of 28) as the Hokies won 81-63 over winthrop at the Cassell for their 3rd straight win (by an average of over 21 points per win), just missing their third straight Bear Fight victory due to a missed 3 at the end by C.J. Barksdale. This team is riding the gravy train with biscuit wheels heading into the ACC opener!
Don’t let the final score fool you, though, this game was really close most of the second half. Tech led 42-33 at the break but opened up the second half with three straight turnovers and had 10 total in the final frame, and 18 for the game. The Hokies mustered just 11 points in the first 11:30 of the second half. Despite it feeling like Tech was in control the whole game, winthrop cut the VT lead to just 1 at 50-49 with 12 minutes to go, trailed by just 2 at 55-53 with 7:30 remaining in the game and by just 3 (57-54) with 7 minutes left. But the Hokies went on a 13-2 run over the next 2 minutes to take a commanding 70-56 lead with 5 minutes to go and put the game on ice.
Jarell Eddie really did have the game of his life tonight. After starting slowly, he lit fire midway through the first half, scoring 17 straight points for the Hokies on his way to 20 in the first half. For the game, Eddie hit 6/8 three-pointers (the VT record for made 3s in a game is 7 by Malcolm Delaney in 2011). He also had not one but TWO four-point plays in the game! The latter was during that 14-2 run late in the game that put the game out of reach.
In addition to Eddie, Tech got great efforts from their low post players. Their three main bigs combined for 30 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 blocks. C.J. Barksdale had 13 points, Joey van Zegeren had 9 (all in the first half), and Cadarian Raines, who had sat the last 87 minutes of action over the last three games, did return to the floor 10 minutes into the game and added 8 points.
The shot an eye-popping 60% from the field for the game. That’s easily the highest percentage ever for the Hokies in the brief James Johnson era (they had never reached 53% before). Tech who came in 4th in the nation in 3-Point %, didn’t hurt their average at all there, either. The Hokies made 9/20 from deep (45%), just below their 46% average. The only downside was Johnston was just 1/7 from behind the arc tonight.
Redshirt-sophomore guard Adam Smith was out with a calf injury while freshman guard Ben Emelogu missed his third straight game with concussion-like symptoms. Add Marquis Rankin to the mix and Tech was really depleted on the perimeter. Will Johnston got his fifth career start and first this season. As a result, freshman point guard Devin Wilson played almost the entire game (37 minutes), and when he sat, Jarell Eddie ran the point of all people (hey, there wasn’t anyone else left).
Wilson had 11 points, all in the second half. Thankfully someone told him at halftime that he had a 6 to 9 inch advantage on the guys guarding him, and he started aggressively attacking the tin off the drive and shooting that running layup from 5-8 feet off the backboard he likes to do from the right side. Wilson had 8 assists but also had 5 turnovers.
THE FIRST HALF:
For the third game in a row the Hokies came out of the gate blazing, while their opponent was ice cold. Tech took a 13-5 lead to start behind 8 points from Joey van Zegeren in the first 5 minutes (note that he only averages 3.5 ppg), including a nice alley-oop slam on the break. winthrop was just 2/10 from the field to that point.
winthrop showed some life after that and went on a 14-3 run to take a 19-16 lead. Then, that’s when Eddie went nuts as mentioned. Jarell Eddie scored 17 straight points for the Hokies, including a 9-0 run of his own at one stretch, to help VT take a commanding lead.
Tech, once again, was hot from deep. The Hokies made just 1/5 three-pointers to start the game, but hit 6/9 to close the half and reach 50% at the break.
Jarell Eddie finished the first half with 20 points including 5/7 3-pointers.
The Hokies, who led by as many as 12 in the first stanza, took a 42-33 lead to the break, giving the Hokies 90 combined points in their last 2 first halves (vs radford and winthrop).
Note: In case you were wondering, Keon Johnson of winthrop was listed at 5’7″ and 160 lbs. While I won’t argue the weight, if he was taller than 5’5″ then I’m 7-foot. He looked like a pee wee guarding the 6’4″ Devin Wilson. Keon had 15 points to lead the eagles.
- A for Effort: I really like this team’s effort. They play like a young, hungry team that has something to prove (as they should – they are young and every thinks they are the worst team in the ACC). Guys really hustle after 50/50 balls which you have to love. We’ll have to see if the team can keep this level of effort up all season, especially if they get on a losing streak in ACC play.
- Shooting: 60% from the field? Wow-za! I guess that’s what happens when you get your bigs the ball, hit open 3s… and the other team has 3 main players at 5’10″ or shorter.
- The Bigs: 30 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 blocks from the low post guys? That’s much more like it, albeit
- EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! That’s all you had to say.
- Craig Kimbrel: This team is learning how to close! The 14-2 run with the game tight put this thing on ice. Now VT just has to do it against a power conference team, something they couldn’t do against seton hall. Could miami be the day?
- Where Aren’t Though? The Cassell, that’s where. The Hokies came in averaging just 4,000 seats sold per game through six home contests. While I’m not sure how many seats were sold tonight (actually, 3,888 to be exact), this was easily the smallest crowd. Most disappointing was the student turnout, or lack-there-of. The students aren’t on break and finals don’t start for more than a week, so why were there only a few hundred students there? What else do you have to do on a Tuesday night? And the team has been playing better.
- Turnovers: 18 for the game and 10 in the second half. This cannot continue, especially against a team that didn’t press. How many will VT have against vcu? Tech has lost the turnover battle in 7 games, and tied it twice (i.e. their opponent has never had more TOs than them). That has to change at some point if you want to win games in the ACC.
- Curse of Greenberg: Is the injury bug decimating another VT season? Could this be another year where we don’t have enough healthy bodies to practice 5-on-5? Tech was down to 8 guys tonight. Smith and Emelogu are sorely needed soon (Muller we won’t have all year, Kirby is redshirting, and Rankin is TBD… so 10 is the max VT will have all year, and they really need that).
SCORE TRENDS AT THE MEDIA TIMEOUTS:
Tech returns to action on Sunday at 12:30 PM against miami in the ACC season opener on ESPNU!