BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green stepped to the free-throw line late in the Hokies’ game against Rhode Island, needing just two points to top his career high.
And the 78 percent career free-throw shooter proceeded to miss both of them.
“I didn’t know I was close to my career (high) until I got to the foul line and Jarell Eddie said, ‘You going for 30 tonight,”’ Green said. “I looked up and saw I had 25, and then I missed those two free throws. I just lost focus. But it’s all good. I’m glad we got the win.”
Missing those two free throws was about the only thing Green did wrong on Monday night, as the senior tied his career high with 25 points to lift the Hokies past Rhode Island 69-50.
Green scored 17 of his 25 in the first half, as Virginia Tech (2-0) jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never trailed. Rhode Island missed its first seven shots from the floor and didn’t score in the first 5:08 of the game.
The Rams (0-2) cut the lead to 28-24 on a basket by Xavier Munford with 1:59 left in the first half. But the Hokies scored the last eight points of the half — six of those coming on two Green 3-pointers — to take a 36-24 lead at halftime.
Rhode Island got no closer than 11 the rest of the game. The Rams had a chance to cut the lead to nine with 10:02 remaining, but Nikola Malesevic missed a layup, and Green responded for the Hokies by making two free throws with 9:46 left to push the lead back to 13. Virginia Tech led by as many as 21 in the second half.
“We’ve got a lot to work on, but the goal has been, from day 1, to get better every day, and I thought we took a step forward from Saturday night (against East Tennessee State),” first-year Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “I’ve seen a lot from this team.
“We got a team effort on the defensive end, and I thought it started with the first possession of the game. We forced a shot-clock violation, and that set the tone for the game.”
Malesevic’s missed layup was part of a terrible shooting night for the Rams, who made just 33.9 percent from the floor (20 of 59). Even worse, they made just 1 of 21 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We actually shot better (Monday night) than we did in our opener,” first-year Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. “They’re size and athleticism relative to where we’re at currently was a factor. They’re a well-coached team, and a team that played every possession. We have such a small margin for error. We don’t have a post game, and if we don’t make shots from the perimeter — and we haven’t to this point in the season — it’s hard to get consistent scoring.”
“In the first half, we came out strong, but we always have this problem where we let teams come back in the game,” Green said. “On the defensive end, we still had a lot of mistakes, and rebounding, I think they out-rebounded us on the offensive end (13-10).
“We did a good job, but I want to do a great job. When we play in the ACC, we’ve got to be able to be great to beat those guys. I’m proud of our defense, but I want to be great on defense.”
Green, in particular, was great on offense. He hit 8 of 15 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. He made 5 of 8 from the free-throw line, and he also dished out four assists.
Robert Brown scored 12 for the Hokies, and Cadarian Raines recorded his first career double-double, with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Munford led the Rams with 24 points.
RHODE ISLAND (0-2) — Malesevic 1-7 4-4 6, Brooks 1-1 0-0 2, Powell 1-12 1-2 3, Munford 11-22 1-5 24, Malone 2-6 3-3 7, Bigby 2-3 0-0 4, Hare 2-3 0-2 4, Buchanan 0-1 0-0 0, Aaman 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 20-59 9-16 50.
VIRGINIA TECH (2-0) — Raines 4-4 2-3 10, Eddie 4-11 0-0 9, Barksdale 1-3 0-0 2, Brown 5-12 1-2 12, Green 8-15 5-8 25, Van Zegeren 1-2 0-2 2, Patrick 0-2 2-2 2, Beyer 0-0 0-0 0, Racer 0-0 0-0 0, Johnston 1-1 0-0 3, Wood 2-7 0-0 4. Totals 26-57 10-17 69.
Halftime—Virginia Tech 36-24. 3-Point Goals—Rhode Island 1-21 (Munford 1-9, Malesevic 0-1, Aaman 0-1, Malone 0-4, Powell 0-6), Virginia Tech 7-21 (Green 4-7, Johnston 1-1, Eddie 1-4, Brown 1-4, Wood 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Rhode Island 37 (Aaman 7), Virginia Tech 42 (Raines 12). Assists—Rhode Island 4 (Malesevic, Powell 2), Virginia Tech 14 (Brown, Green 4). Total Fouls—Rhode Island 18, Virginia Tech 15. A—6,270.