THE VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES, PICKED TO FINISH DEAD LAST IN THE ACC, ARE ALONE IN FIRST PLACE!!! Sure, this was the first ACC league game of the season of any team, but let’s enjoy the moment while we can! The Hokies snapped their 6-game ACC Opener losing streak, winning on the road in 82-degree Coral Gables, FL, 61-60 in overtime. And Coach James Johnson beat Coach Larranaga of miami, whom JJ used to work for at george mason (that’s gotta feel good for JJ). Tech moves to 7-3 on the season (4 straight wins) while the c-a-n-e-s canes fell to 5-5. This was Virginia Tech’s first ever win in an ACC Opener on the road (Tech is now 2-8 all time in ACC Openers).
Tech showed tremendous composure given their youth and the fact they were in a road arena for the first time. The Hokies trailed by 13 with 15 minutes to go in regulation, and 10 with 4 minutes to go. Trailing 55-45 with 4 minutes on the clock, Jarell Eddie scored Tech’s final 11 points of regulation and helped Tech tie the game at 56. Unfortunately, his shot with 2 seconds to go was blocked that could have won the game in regulation. An alley-oop to Joey van Zegeren with 0.3 seconds left was caught and banked in by JvZ… but you can’t catch and shoot the ball with 0.3 left, you can only tip it so the officials waved the shot off and the game went to overtime.
Jarell Eddie was once again the star of the game with 24 points (coming off a career high 34 earlier in the week). His left-baseline fadeaway with 19 seconds left in overtime put the Hokies ahead 61-59. miami’s Garrius Adams got fouled with 7 seconds left but could make just 1 of 2 free throws. On the rebound, Tech nearly lost the ball out of bounds and Joey van Zegeren made a critical mistake, saving the ball into the hands of Donnavan Kirk. But Kirk was too far under the hoop and his shot hit the basket support, giving the ball back to the Hokies with 2 seconds left. VT was able to salt away the rest of the clock and capture the win in their first road game of the season.
It was a tale of three Eddies in this game. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Jarell hit 3 three-pointers. Then he scored just 2 points on 1/11 FGs over the next 25 minutes. But once again Eddie got hot, scoring 13 points between the final 5 minutes of regulation (3/3 on 3s) and overtime. In addition to his game-winner, he also hit the game tying 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in regulation to knot the game at 56 (which is the way the second half ended).
While Eddie was the Player of the Game, Joey van Zegeren had the Play of the Game. With the game tied at 59 in OT and less than a minute to go, the Hokies turned the ball over near midcourt. miami had numbers and it looked like Rion Brown would get an easy bucket to put the canes up. But JvZ, playing major minutes for the injured C.J. Barksdale*, jumped around Devin Wilson to swat the shot off the backboard and give the Hokies possession, setting the stage for Eddie’s go-ahead jumper. JvZ put out incredible effort, running the floor to get back on defense.
This game wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty between two teams picked to finish in the lower third of the league. The Hokies, who came into the game 4th in the nation in 3-point %, hit just 5/16 in the first half. In fact, Tech was just 9/30 (30%) on field goals at the break and hadn’t attempted a single free throw (Tech only attempted 3 FTs for the whole game). VT scored just 8 points over a 13-minute span that overlapped the end of the first half and the start of the second half. With 24 minutes gone in the game, the Hokies had just 24 points. Get the picture?
miami, who is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, weren’t much better shooting, but held a 31-23 lead at the break due largely to points in the paint. They had an 18-4 advantage at the half in the paint, due largely to their ability to beat Tech off the dribble while the Hokies got nothing off the drive. In fact, Tech didn’t have a fast break point until their were 5 minutes left in regulation.
Tech, who lives and dies by the 3, was dying for the first 36 minutes of the game. Virginia Tech was just 8/28 (29%) on 3-pointers until 4 minutes were left in the 2nd half, but VT hit 4/6 the rest of the way to fuel the comeback and win.
- EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! He has not exactly been Mr. Clutch at the end of games in the past, but his 11 straight points to close regulation (including 3/3 from deep), and that fadeaway late in OT were money! He scored 58 points in 2 games this week and has to have a good shot at ACC player of the week.
- We Got Wood! I dogged Marshall Wood a few weeks ago but he’s been great from deep of late. He hit 3/6 3s today and is 8/15 (53%) during Tech’s 4 game winning streak.
- Turnovers – For the first time all season Tech won the turnover battle (committing 10 compared to 12 by the canes)
- Craig Kimbrel – Another first today was the Hokies winning, and finishing, a close game. VT’s previous 6 wins had come by an average of 16.7 points, and just one of those (wvu) was close at the end. Today VT found a way to come back and then win. This is a big moment for a young team.
- 1-0: The Hokies haven’t been able to say they were 1-0 in the ACC since the 2006-2007 season, the last time VT went to the NCAA Tournament (no, no, NO, I’m not starting that line of thinking). But for a team picked to finish 15th, it is critical to beat the other bad teams. And to do it on the road is even more sweet, and VT did that today. Congrats to the Baby Birds/Jakes!
- Points in the Paint: VT has to figure out how to score inside. Tech couldn’t get out in transition and they couldn’t get low post points with Barksdale out and Raines seemingly still in the doghouse (he played maybe 10 minutes and had just one FG attempt). miami shut down Devin Wilson off the drive (just 1 point) and Ben Emelogu wasn’t much better (11 points but on just 5/14 shooting – and just 1/7 on 3s (he was over 50% from deep coming in)). Tech has feaster on smaller teams, but against athletic teams like miami that have some length, you can see how much VT struggles to find points inside the arc. This has to improve. Even with Barksdale back he’s more of a spot-up shooter facing the basket. Also, VT must be more aggressive. 3 free throws for an entire, 45-minute game?
- *The Curse of Greenberg: So Ben Emelogu and Adam Smith were back from injuries today. (That’s good!) But C.J. Barksdale was now out with a knee sprain. (That’s bad) Seriously, can we go a week without a new injury? There were rumors of the Hokies going to hard in practice when Seth was the coach and I wonder if that isn’t continuing. I mean, who deals with this many injuries?!
The Hokies now go into their bye week on a high note! Tech is off until Saturday, December 21st when they play vcu at the Richmond Coliseum.