By JIMMY ROBERTSON
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson could have walked into the postgame news conference following his team’s victory over Florida State with a huge smile on his face.
Instead, the look on his face was one of relief.
The Hokies got 26 points from star guard Erick Green and some stellar free-throw shooting down the stretch to knock off the Seminoles 80-70 on Sunday.
The win snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Hokies (12-15, 3-11 Atlantic Coast Conference), who were looking to avoid their first 10-game skid since the 2001-02 season.
“It’s a relief,” Johnson said. “It tells a lot about this team and how they kept on grinding and grinding. (Sunday), it wasn’t easy. None of these wins are going to be easy. But the way we had to win it, playing without Marquis Rankin for the second half (sick) and with Robert Brown sitting for a while and then coming in and making some plays. Erick Green got off to a slow start. They took the lead, and we had to fight back and take the lead and then finish off the second half.
“It says a lot about our guys. On the stat sheet, a lot of guys did some good things, but this one was about heart. This team showed a lot of heart.”
Virginia Tech trailed most of the first half, but Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton drew a technical foul with 2:55 remaining that seemed to turn the momentum. Green hit both free throws to tie the game, and the Hokies retained possession and took a 23-21 lead on a Christian Beyer layup. They did not trail again.
The Hokies opened the second half with a 14-3 run, taking a 42-29 lead on a 3-pointer by Robert Brown with 15:36 remaining — their biggest lead of the game. The Seminoles (14-13, 6-8) cut the lead to 53-49 on a basket by Kiel Turpin with 7:06 remaining but got no closer.
The Hokies made just two field goals in the final 6:18, but they sealed things at the free-throw line, hitting 17 of their final 18 attempts after Florida State started fouling with less than 3 minutes remaining. Virginia Tech connected on 25 of 30 from the line for the game.
“Not surprised,” Johnson said of the Hokies’ free-throw shooting. “We shoot them just about every day in practice. So I’m not really surprised.”
“We started fouling early,” Hamilton said. “We rolled the dice there and hoped that they would just give us one (missed free throw). They did a very good job of knocking them down.”
What probably came as more of a surprise was the production from Hokies other than Green. The nation’s leading scorer at 25.2 points per game coming in, Green hit 8 of 17 from the floor and all nine of his free-throw attempts. He also dished out five assists.
But Virginia Tech forward C.J. Barksdale added a career-high 17 points, hitting 4 of 6 from the floor and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed nine rebounds. Also, Robert Brown, mired in a shooting slump, added 11 points, hitting 4 of 8 from the floor. The Hokies hit 50 percent for the game (25 of 50) — only the second time in ACC play that they’ve shot 50 percent.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Green said. “I’ve seen these guys in practice. I knew it was going to happen, but they just had to start hitting. They’ve been in some slumps, but everyone can overcome a slump. I think Rob is going to get going, and C.J. has some confidence. We’ve got some guys who can play well.”
The Seminoles were led by Okaro White, who scored 18, and freshman guard Devon Bookert added 14. Michael Snaer, the Seminoles’ leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, finished with just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Florida State, which came into the game leading the ACC in free-throw shooting at 72.3 percent, hurt itself by making just 13 of 23 from the line.
“Sometimes when you’re not on your game psychologically, you lose a little confidence at the free-throw line,” Hamilton said. “You’re there at the line and things are running through your mind, whereas when things are going well and you’re feeling good, you’re confident and focused. I was surprised we missed those free throws. This is one of the better free-throw shooting teams we’ve had, but it happens that way. It’s part of the growing-up process.”
FLORIDA ST. (14-13)
White 5-7 6-7 18, Ojo 1-1 0-0 2, Bookert 5-9 2-3 14, Snaer 2-9 3-6 8, Thomas 4-10 1-4 10, Brandon 0-0 1-2 1, Turpin 4-5 0-1 8, Gilchrist 0-1 0-0 0, Bojanovsky 2-2 0-0 4, Miller 2-11 0-0 5. Totals 25-55 13-23 70.
VIRGINIA TECH (12-15)
Raines 2-3 0-2 4, Barksdale 4-6 9-11 17, Rankin 3-5 0-0 8, Green 8-17 9-9 26, Johnston 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 4-8 2-2 11, Van Zegeren 1-2 1-1 3, Beyer 1-1 0-0 2, Eddie 0-2 4-4 4, Wood 2-5 0-1 5. Totals 25-50 25-30 80.
Halftime—Virginia Tech 28-26. 3-Point Goals—Florida St. 7-20 (Bookert 2-3, White 2-4, Thomas 1-2, Snaer 1-5, Miller 1-6), Virginia Tech 5-15 (Rankin 2-2, Wood 1-2, Brown 1-3, Green 1-5, Johnston 0-1, Eddie 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Florida St. 33 (White 10), Virginia Tech 32 (Barksdale 9). Assists—Florida St. 10 (Bookert, Snaer 3), Virginia Tech 12 (Green 5). Total Fouls—Florida St. 21, Virginia Tech 18. Technical—Florida St. Bench. A—5,042.