BLACKSBURG, Va. —
It took Virginia Tech about 15 minutes in its game with Mississippi Valley State to rid itself of the effects of a stinging, one-point loss at West Virginia two days earlier.
Not coincidentally, that was about the time when Erick Green started heating up.
The Hokies’ senior guard continued his elite play this season, scoring 23 points to lead Virginia Tech past the Delta Devils 70-49 on Monday night.
The Hokies (8-1) came out sluggish against a Mississippi Valley State team that fell to 0-6, with all six losses coming on the road against teams in BCS leagues. Virginia Tech fell behind the Delta Devils 22-20 after Mississippi Valley State’s Matt Smith scored the second of back-to-back baskets with 6:28 left in the first half.
But Green’s two free throws started a 10-0 run, and the Hokies never trailed again. He scored six of the 10 points in that run.
“We came out slow,” Green said. “We came out flat, and they (Mississippi Valley State) stayed in the game. I’m not taking anything away from Mississippi Valley State. They’re a good team. We just came out flat.
“Maybe we overlooked them. Maybe it was the loss on Saturday (to West Virginia). I can’t lie. These past two days, I’ve been angry that we let that one get away. But we’ve got to let it go and move on. I don’t think we moved on until the second half.”
The Hokies took control with a 10-2 run to end the first half, followed by an 8-2 run to start the second. A jumper by C.J. Barksdale with 15:57 remaining gave the Hokies a 38-26 lead, and the Delta Devils got no closer than 10 points the rest of the game. Virginia Tech went on to lead by as many as 23 points.
The Hokies started hitting the boards in the second half and turned up their defensive pressure. After getting out-rebounded 24-17 in the first half, they finished with a 51-45 advantage on the boards. They also held the Delta Devils to 25.7 percent shooting for the game (18 of 70).
“We had a little sweet talk at halftime,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “Just a little sweet talk.
“Our guys know the deal. I don’t have to do a lot with this group. We looked at the stat sheet and said, ‘All right guys, here’s where we’ve got to do a better job.’ That’s what we did. I thought our defense was pretty good. Our initial defense has been good. It’s been the second-chance opportunities that have hurt us. But we did better in the second half.”
Green hit 8 of 13 from the floor for the game and all six of his free-throw attempts. He has scored more than 20 points in all nine games this season for the Hokies, becoming the first Virginia Tech player to score at least 20 in the first nine games of a season since Bimbo Coles in the 1989-90 season.
“He (Green) got going, and their team got going,” Mississippi Valley State first-year coach Chico Potts said. “A lot of times, it’s what we do. That’s where we’ve got to grow the most as a team. We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable for jobs. I’ve got a young team. We’re getting there, but it would be a whole lot better getting there if we could pick up a win or two on the road during these tough times.”
Mississippi Valley State, which got 19 points from Davon Usher, continues its brutal schedule with a road game at Bradley on Dec. 19 — like this one, a part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The Delta Devils open the season with 11 road or neutral-site games before playing at home for the first time this season on Jan. 6 against Alabama A&M.
“I’m not going to rush to get out of it (the early-season schedule) because some of these guys may never get this opportunity again,” Potts said. “Who’s to say if we’re going to play at Virginia Tech again? I’m sucking it up, and at the same time I’m watching my team come together. That’s the main thing.
“Last year, we struggled early and we were 1-11 going into conference. Then we won 17 straight and would go on to the national tournament because of that. As long as we’re learning and keep getting better, I’m going to enjoy this ride.”
Tomlin 5-15 5-5 15, Francis 2-7 0-1 4, Ralling 0-6 0-0 0, Marshall 0-8 0-0 0, Smith 5-11 0-2 10, Usher 6-16 3-4 19, Dobbs 0-4 1-2 1, Holley 0-1 0-0 0, Henry 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-70 9-14 49.
VIRGINIA TECH (8-1)
Brown 2-9 0-0 4, Eddie 2-7 4-7 8, Barksdale 3-5 0-0 6, Green 8-13 6-6 23, Raines 0-4 0-0 0, Van Zegeren 3-3 3-6 9, Rankin 3-4 3-3 10, Racer 0-1 0-0 0, Patrick 0-3 0-0 0, Johnston 0-2 0-0 0, Beyer 0-4 2-2 2, Wood 2-5 4-6 8, Donlon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-60 22-30 70.
Halftime—Virginia Tech 30-24. 3-Point Goals—MVSU 4-29 (Usher 4-11, Henry 0-1, Dobbs 0-2, Ralling 0-3, Smith 0-3, Tomlin 0-3, Marshall 0-6), Virginia Tech 2-12 (Rankin 1-1, Green 1-2, Patrick 0-1, Wood 0-1, Racer 0-1, Johnston 0-2, Brown 0-2, Beyer 0-2). Fouled Out—Raines, Ralling. Rebounds—MVSU 45 (Smith 10), Virginia Tech 51 (Eddie 10). Assists—MVSU 6 (Tomlin 4), Virginia Tech 10 (Green 4). Total Fouls—MVSU 20, Virginia Tech 19. A—4,926.