By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
That 7-0 start must seem like a long time ago.
“Right now we are in a tough place,” Virginia Tech junior Jarell Eddie said. “We are in a four-game losing streak and three of those games were blowout losses so it was tough.
“We are in a tough position right now, but we just have to fight back and get back on track.”
Boston College was the preseason pick to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Eagles didn’t look the part, never trailing in the second half while defeating short-handed Virginia Tech 86-75 in front of 6,054 fans on Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech (9-6, 0-2), which began the season with seven straight wins under first year head coach James Johnson, have now dropped six of its last eight games. The Hokies played with just six scholarship players with Robert Brown out with an illness and Marshall Wood still nursing a foot injury.
“You don’t like losing. Anyone that is competitive, coaches, players, you don’t like losing, you want to find a way to get out of this thing and get to the next game and try to get a win,” said Johnson, who replaced the fired Seth Greenberg after last season. “In the ACC it is tough. You can’t get too high on any win and you can’t too low on any losses.
"You have just got to move on…Sure, it is frustrating, but it is a long season and we have got to move on and try to get better and get to the next game.”
Boston College (9-6, 1-1) used a 10-0 run late in the opening half to take a 32-26 lead, and the Eagles built that margin to as much as 12, at 42-30, with on a 3 by Olivier Hanlon with 17:18 on the clock.
Defense continues to be a problem for the Hokies. They have allowed 88, 97, 94 and 86 points during their current four-game skid, with a trip to Georgia Tech on tap for Saturday.
“It is really tough,” Eddie said. “We are all working hard in practice on our defense, we are definitely trying to improve in that area of our game, but teams are playing well against us and executing their game plan and we are unable to stop them so we just have to continue to get better.”
Boston College was led by Ryan Anderson, an All-ACC freshman performer last season, who had 16 of his 26 points in the second half. He was 11-of=17 from the field and also pulled down nine rebounds.
“He is pretty skilled in the post, both ways, left hand and right hand,” said Virginia Tech sophomore walk-on Christian Beyer, who has seen increased playing time in recent games, providing six points and a team-leading eight boards in 22 minutes on the floor. “Every time we seemed to get on a run they looked at him to help them get their lead back up there.”
Virginia Tech, which was led by Erick Green with 24 points to match his nation-leading 24.6 points a contest, while Eddie tallied 17 of his 21 in the second half. No one else had more than seven. Green had three of the Hokies’ seven 3s in the game, and also had nine assists.
Boston College forced 17 Virginia Tech turnovers, converting those into 29 points. The Eagles had just five turnovers and the Hokies didn’t score off any of them.
“You have got to give them credit, they played well…,” Johnson said.
“We did some good things. We out-rebounded them, but we didn’t take care of the basketball.
“If you don’t take care of the basketball, it leads to 29 points from your turnovers and it doesn’t give us a chance to get into our set defense. That is tough.”
Virginia Tech was able to cut the second half margin to three, at 61-58, on a layup by C.J. Barksdale with 6:57 on the clock, but the Eagles continued to respond, led by three baskets from Anderson, a back-breaking 3 _ one of five in the game for Lonnie Jackson _ and clutch free throws down the stretch.
Jackson scored 22 points, including five 3s. He was 7-of-12 from the free throw line, making 7-8 in the final minute of the game. Hanlon added 17 points. Boston College, which was 8-17 from the charity stripe in the opening half, finished the game making 20-35. The Hokies were 10-15 from the same spot.
Seven-foot Dennis Clifford added nine points, while Hanlon added eight boards, five steals and four assists. Jackson contributed seven rebounds for the Eagles, which didn’t win an ACC road game all last season.
Green’s nine first half points helped the Hokies to their largest lead at 23-17 with 5:04 on the clock, and still led 26-22 before the Eagles went on a 10-0 run to end the half.
Virginia Tech, which scored 80 or more points in six of their first seven games, has been held to under their average of 76.6 in every game since then.
“We have been struggling with transition as of recently,” Beyer said. “In the first seven games we were really pushing in transition. That is where a lot of our success came from, but we haven’t been rebounding as well as we used to and we can’t get in the transition as well.”
Barksdale opened the second half with free throws to pull within 32-28, but the Eagles continued what was a 20-4 run from the 3:14 mark of the opening half, led by a 3s from Jackson and Hanlon.
Virginia Tech was able to cut the margin to three, but could never get any closer, as the downtrodden Hokies continue to look for answers to its midseason swoon.
“Those guys are working. They are having fun, but they are working extremely hard,” Johnson said.
“That is the tough thing. For those guys to work the way they have worked in practice and as competitive as practices have been, I would like to see it carry over to the game and reward them.
“I think they might be a little down about it. They want to see all the hard work pay off and it will come. We just have to keep grinding away…It is still fun and they are working hard definitely.”
Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday at Georgia Tech, and the Hokies still feel like they can be competitive in the ACC.
“Right now we are 0-2, but we still have a lot of season to play, a lot of games to play and we just have to move on,” Eddie said. “We just have to get back on track. We have got to play with more confidence again and get back to playing our style of basketball.
“We have got to get back to where we were.”
Note: Princeton resident Mike Eades was one of three officials in the game.
— Contact Brian Woodson