The Hokies came out firing on all cylinders tonight in their first big win of the season. They took down the Iowa Hawkeyes in the ACC-B1G Challenge 95-79. Here are my thoughts on the game:
Summary: The Hokies started out shaky but still kept the game close through the first media timeout. They weren't doing so hot on the boards and were struggling defensively, giving up dunk after dunk after dunk. We were trapping the big man down low every time he received the ball, and this allowed Iowa to have wide open shots. The Hawkeyes were doing a great job with their perimeter defense, were pressing extremely well, and weren't allowing the Hokies into their bread and butter transition offense. Iowa did a god job throughout the entire half holding Erick Green and Jarell Eddie in check. They finished with 12 total points at the half. Tech's supporting cast, however, was extremely productive and helped us keep the game close. Similar to the past games, the Hokies began to go on a run by forcing turnovers and getting into transition. We finished on a 10-1 run to end the half and held an eight point lead at half time.
We didn't really have too much of Erick in the first half, but boy did he begin to take over the game in the second. He went on his own little 9-0 run to start the second half. He extended the lead to 17, and it began to look like we were about to blow the roof off of Cassell. LOLNOPE. We proceeded to give up 14 straight points to Iowa, and it was now a three point game. During this run, Iowa slowed down the pace and forced Tech into their half-court offense. Iowa was playing a 2-3 zone and our offense started to look like Greenberg had come back to coach: pass around the arc, and then take a contested shot as the shot clock expired. After four minutes without scoring, Jarell was finally able to split the defense and make a layup. Now the question was how we would respond to this run? We began to push the tempo, and got the game back to a fast paced, high scoring game. This prevented Iowa from being able to get set in their 2-3 zone and the Hokies slowly began building a lead. We got the lead to 11 with nine minutes to go and never looked back. Virginia Tech had its largest lead of the night with two minutes remaining, a surprising 21 points, and was able to relax for the rest of the game.
Quick thoughts: So raise your hand if you though Tech was going to win by more than 15 points tonight. No one? What about winning the rebounding battle? Nope? Okay, that's what I thought. This was an unexpected victory that has really gotten Hokie Nation excited. The team played an inspired game tonight, looking to prove that they are for real, and every single person contributed. This is the biggest team effort I have even seen in my years watching Virginia Tech basketball. Everyone had a role tonight and contributed tremendously. This team is a blast to watch and I really enjoy seeing players WANT to be out there on the court. The team fought hard tonight and was rewarded with a win. We took care of the ball and played an extremely physical game, that's why we won tonight.
Point Guards: Erick Green had another "Wow" performance after finishing with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He was held in check for the majority of the first half, and then really changed the game in the second half. He did a great job getting everyone involved and made great decisions the entire night, including always getting it to the right guy during the fast break. Unfortunately, his streak of free throws ended at 37 straight. That is the only bad thing that happened tonight from him (Yep, he was that good). Marquis Rankin was in foul trouble all night and didn't get to play much because of it. He was a little reckless tonight defensively. He did however shoot well tonight, something we hadn't seen from him yet.
Shooting Guards: Robert Brown played the best game he has all year. He shot 75% from the floor and was able to drive on Iowa all night in our half-court offense. Not only did he shoot well, he got everyone involved with the incredible passes he makes, and some are even a little too nifty and our own players don't see it coming. He helped make up for Jarell Eddie's struggles with scoring and was the Hokies second leading scorer. Big props to Rob, he really stepped up tonight. Will Johnston makes threes, it's what he does. He struggles to do anything else well. Coach Johnson put him in tonight, and he immediately made a three pointer, however, he became a liability on the defensive end and had difficulties getting around screens and following his assignment.
Forwards: Jarell Eddie never really got it going offensively tonight, but still had a solid effort. He took three bad shots (something I'm not used to seeing, maybe had to deal with frustration from his difficult start) but still brought us valuable points from driving the ball. He continued his rebounding success on the season and finished with seven rebounds, which I will always take from a small forward. C.J. Barksdale played the best game of his career tonight. He played the most physical game he's had since he's been at Tech. He fought hard in the post and got his fair share of rebounds from it. Not only was his presence felt on the boards, but he also had a major impact defensively. The stats only say one block, but he got his hand on the ball while it was going up a lot. He also is one of the more athletic big men we've had, and was extremely useful in transition. He had multiple baskets come on the fast break. Finishing with 11 points and 7 rebounds against a team of Iowa's size is no small feat, and should be recognized. Marshall Wood again had trouble getting the ball in the hoop. He was 1-6, but made up in other ways. Numerous times I saw him go up hard for a rebound, something you don't normally see out of a freshman. He's a very physical player and did some dirty work tonight.
Centers: Cadarian had a typical performance, and was excellent from the free throw line. He finished with nine points and six rebounds, and was a part of getting Iowa in foul trouble. The only way Iowa's big men were going to stop him was by fouling, so that's what they did. JVZ surprised me tonight. He didn't let Iowa push him around and finished with a career high in points tonight, with 10. His t3 offensive rebounds all led to points. The only complaint I havd was he sometimes got pinned under the basket, had no chance of making the shot, but still took it anyway. Best performance of the year for him, by far.
Team: I had to add this section for tonight. This was truly a team effort. We had five guys in double figures (almost six). We got 22 points from our bench players, and they kept us in the game for the first half. We shared the ball, played with intensity, and everyone contributed. Nights like these make the team even more fun to watch. Everyone gave 100% tonight, and the score showed it. We believed we could do it and we got it done.
Stat of the Game: The Hokies won the rebounding battle 36-30. We played a really big team tonight. I was going to be more than happy if we tied with rebounds. We surprised everyone with our rebounding ability tonight, and I think a lot had to do with the effort we played with.
Mike's Player of the Game: I think I need to start renaming this part to Mike's Player of the Game Other than Erick Green. He did it again tonight. He didn't have too many points in the first half but stayed patient and took over the second half. I'm starting to believe he is the best point guard in the ACC until someone proves me otherwise.
We again had our troubles from three point range, but that didn't matter. We found a way to get it done inside and finished shooting 52.5% on the night. We finished with only nine turnovers and shot 90% from the free throw line. We did everything well tonight. This performance has gotten me really excited but I'll have to wait a little longer to see how good this team really is. I do know one thing though; they will put up points. We're averaging 87 points per game which is currently in the top ten in the nation.
Our next game is Saturday at 2 p.m. against undefeated #15 Oklahoma State. Cassell Coliseum should be full this weekend. Make the right decision and go to the game. Go Hokies!