image via HokieSports.com
After today's game, I can officially say that James Johnson is the right man for this job. The Hokies upset #15 Oklahoma State 81-71 this afternoon in a crazy environment at Cassell Coliseum.
Ten seconds into the game, Erick Green picked up his first foul. Physical play and missed shots by Oklahoma State helped the Hokies to an early 7-4 lead. A little more than 2 minutes into the game, Erick picked up his second foul. He was immediately subbed out. This got me worried. How would we play without Erick for the majority of the first half?
Well, we didn't do too well. We failed to score for the next five minutes with Erick on the bench. It was clear this team needs him on the court. Coach Johnson showed trust in his player to not foul, and put him back in with 12 minutes left in the half. How'd he do?
He scored our next 10 points and gave us the lead with 8 minutes left in the half. He was taken out, and Oklahoma State began to dominate. They looked more talented and stronger than the Hokies, and slowly built an eight point lead. The entire first half was played at Oklahoma State's pace, and the Hokies looked awful in their half-court offense. Give credit to the Cowboys, they are very solid on defense. With a minute left in the half, Robert Brown scored back-to-back times off a steal, then a long rebound, setting up two transition shots to get the game within four. I considered the Hokies very lucky to be in that position.
It was clear we were going to need to get in transition and speed up the pace if we we're going to have any chance in the game. The defensive intensity would need to increase to force either turnovers or missed shots, leading to transition opportunities.
Erick Green took over the game at the start the second half. He scored the Hokies first 10 points and pushed the pace of play. No one could stop him. I couldn't believe some of the shots he made on that run. He was the best player on the court and Oklahoma State had no answer. Cassell erupted after every shot, and every player showed and incredible amounts of emotion. The Hokies defensive intensity increased tremendously and they forced turnovers and scored points in transition. They were doing exactly what they needed to win the game. With five minutes left, the Hokies lead 60-59, and this was where is said to myself, "Let's see what we're made of."
With the crowd behind them, the Tech players showed incredible confidence and no fear as they made shot, after shot, after shot to take a six point lead. Now was the tough part, would we make the free throws? Yes. We made our final 10 free throws to seal the game and win by ten.
Quick thoughts: Before the game even started, I could see confidence oozing out of our players. The team looked like they knew they were going to win. Oklahoma State had the better players, but we had a better TEAM. That's the biggest thing I can stress for this year: We are a team. After today, I know we are legitimate threat and I believe we are going to surprise the ACC. I was beyond impressed today. Four different players scored in double digits, and we scored 49 points in the second half. We out rebounded Oklahoma State 41-31, and played physical the entire game. Tech allowed too many easy dunks inside during the first half, but really improved in the second. The crowd was the loudest I can remember it being since Duke in 2011. I want to say thank you to everyone that came out today, and hope that people continue to come and support this team no matter who the opponent is.
ERICK GREEN, YA'LL. He scored a career high 28 points and 7 rebounds in only 26 minutes of action. He picked up two quick fouls and then stayed clean for the rest of the game. I truly believe he is the best point guard in the ACC and want people to prove me otherwise. He scored 10 points in a row TWICE in the game. He shot lights out today and Oklahoma State couldn't figure out how to stop him.
With Erick being in foul trouble the entire first half, Marquis Rankin had a larger role today than normal. He didn't do too much, but didn't make too many mistakes, not too much to say here.
Robert Brown was a game changer with 6 rebounds and 18 points, many of which came off the fast break. When the team didn't have Erick on the court, the offense went through Brown. No matter the defense, he finds a way to get an open look at the basket. He's incredible in isolation scenarios and no longer relies on just his jump shot; he's a great driver of the basketball and always finds a way to get quick scores. He shot a single three today, and still finished with 18.
The Cowboys denied Will Johnston, and even made him fire a questionable three from behind the arc.
Jarell had his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He's been able to maintain his aggressiveness rebounding after moving from the 4 spot to the 3 this season. He scored every way today. He took it strong to the hoop, and found ways to make shots with his back to the basket. He was extremely physical and shows a lot of emotion throughout the game.
Marshall Wood played his smartest game of the year, and really surprised me with his composure. He took high percentage shots, and sank free throws under pressure at the end of the game. This is the first game he didn't just jack up threes. He would catch the ball and even though he was open, he would drive to the basket and either make the shot or get fouled. He's getting smarter every game, and should be a key part of the team come ACC play.
C.J. played very sparingly today but still had two assists. He does a great job of finding the open man when he has the ball in the post. (Something Cadarian is not so good at...)
Cadarian scored the first four points of the game and played physical throughout. Even with the good start, he struggled with his shot, but was solid from the free throw line. Every time he got the ball in the post, he was determined to get a shot up, even if there were open players around them. When Erick was on his hot streak in the first half, Dot was passed the ball down low, and failed to find a wide open Green right in front of him. He ended up taking a poor shot and missing it. Hopefully he'll improve on this.
JVZ played very few minutes today but had a crazy block in the second half to deny Marcus Smart an easy layup.
Stat of the Game:
The Hokies shot 27-33 from the free throw line and made their final 10 free throws of the game. We didn't see this last year under Seth. It turns the close games we had last year into 10 point victories this year.
Mike's Player of the Game:
Erick Green was by far the best player on the court today, and this team absolutely needs him to succeed.
We beat a team that has two first round draft picks. Marcus Smart is an incredible player, but needs to control his emotions better. The players seemed to really dislike Oklahoma State, and I bet they were happy to get the win. I want to again thank everyone for going to the game today. The fans were one of the main reasons we won; Cassell was loud, and intimidating.
I was waiting to see how we performed in these difficult non-conference games before I made my conclusions about Coach Johnson and this team. I'm officially on board and believe we can do something special this year. Coach Johnson shows great emotion and gets the crowd involved. He's an extremely classy guy and has made this team a family.
The players get a week off before the next game against bitter rival West Virginia. This will be the Hokies first big road game, and I want to see how the players respond. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. next Saturday.
Let's get to 8-0! Go Hokies!