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College Men’s Basketball: Hokies play over taller Iowa
SENIOR GREEN SPURS SECOND-HALF SURGE AS VIRGINIA TECH IMPROVES SEASON MARK TO 6–0
BY NATHAN WARTERS
BLACKSBURG—Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green spent most of the first half Tuesday night trying to find his shot against Iowa’s bigger lineup.
When his offensive game finally came to him after the break, he was hard to stop.
Green scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half in leading the Hokies to a 95–79 win over the Hawkeyes in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Cassell Coliseum. He also had five assists, five rebounds and two steals to help improve Virginia Tech to 6–0 for the first time in 30 years.
“I just feel like my team got it in the right spots and I was hitting shots,” said Green, who shot 8 for 15 from the floor. “I just started being more aggressive than I was in the first half and I was just feeling it.”
The Hokies, who join Duke as the only 6–0 teams in the ACC, topped the 90-point mark for the third time in four games and have eclipsed 80 points in all but one game this season with the fast-paced offensive attack implemented by first-year head coach James Johnson.
“We’re putting in all this hard work, and it’s finally paying off. But 6–0 is not good enough. I want to keep it going. Before December, before we go to Vegas [for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic], I want to be undefeated,” said Green, who has scored 20 or more points in each of Tech’s games this season.
Five different Virginia Tech players scored in double digits, including redshirt freshman forward Joey van Zegeren, who came off the bench to contribute a career-high 10 points and three rebounds. Junior forward Jarell Eddie finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It feels good to be 6–0, especially when people doubted us, and showing them that we can play and we’re not a bad team,” said Tech guard Robert Brown, who had 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. “We’re actually a pretty good team, so the feeling is fantastic.”
It wasn’t much of a surprise when Virginia Tech hung 90 points on the likes of VMI and UNC–Greensboro, but to continue the onslaught against a Big Ten team like Iowa (5–2) was a different story.
“[We’re showing] that we can play,” Green said. “Just because people say we have eight scholarship players and a new coach, none of that matters when you step on the floor. With the great leadership we have with me and Jarell on the floor, I honestly feel we can beat anybody.”
Green, who didn’t make his first field goal until midway through the first half, scored nine straight points to start the second half to give the Hokies a 17-point cushion, but the Hawkeyes answered with a 16–2 run to cut the lead to 55–52.
Virginia Tech re-established control and out-scored Iowa 40–27 over the game’s final 12 minutes. The arena erupted several times as the Hokies built their lead to as many as 21 points late in the second half.
Virginia Tech’s frontcourt of Eddie, van Zegeren, sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale and junior forward Cadarian Raines helped the Hokies overcome Iowa’s size advantage.
The Hawkeyes had out-rebounded four of their first six opponents and entered the game averaging 40 boards a game, but Virginia Tech finished with a 36–30 advantage on the glass.
“Our guys stepped up to the challenge tonight,” Johnson said. “We talked about the physicality of the game, the size, and I thought my post guys did an unbelievable job.”
The Hokies, who improved to 3–5 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, face a tougher challenge Saturday when No. 15 Oklahoma State makes a visit to Cassell. It’ll be Tech’s first home game against a ranked non-conference opponent since hosting No. 18 Purdue on Dec. 1, 2010.
“It felt like a statement game,” van Zegeren said of the win over Iowa, “but every game is the next step.”