As Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg sat down for his postgame news conference following the Hokies’ ugly 65-49 loss at Miami Thursday night, he summed up what had just transpired on the court in about five seconds.
“Real simple,” Greenberg said. “They were good. We weren’t.”
And yet that wasn’t what the coach was most disturbed about. During the three days of practice leading into Virginia Tech’s eighth defeat in 10 games – and even the shoot-around hours before the contest – the Hokies “actually looked like a mature, experienced basketball team,” Greenberg said.
“We had such a good practice today,” he added, stifling an incredulous laugh. “It’s unbelievable how good our practice was today. We were crisp. We executed. We screened. We moved the ball. We shared the ball. And then we get in there and there was no carry-over.
“We’ve had three really good days, really, really good days, [but] we get two-on-ones, we don’t share the ball. We get drives, we miss a dunk. We have pick-and-rolls, we have guys open cutting to the basket and we don’t throw the ball on time, on target and the ball goes right out of bounds. We bring guys in and they don’t play at the level or intensity we need them to play with.”
As Allen Iverson infamously said, we’re talking about practice here, but this gets at the most troubling part of the Hokies’ swoon since the calendar turned to 2012. More than all the losses, they aren’t progressing from game to game, no matter what adjustments Greenberg has made over the past six weeks.
After an encouraging showing in a win over Clemson last weekend, Virginia Tech once again regressed Thursday in a game that was easily the sloppiest the Hokies have looked since I started covering the team last season. Virginia Tech has lost two of its past three games by double digits after losing close to begin ACC play. It’s even more discouraging after Greenberg admitted that “It is literally extremely difficult to put my hand on,” why his team looked so bad at times against the Hurricanes.
The most damning sequence came midway through the first half, when Virginia Tech committed turnovers on seven of eight possessions – and yes, upon recounting this morning it was even worse than what I wrote in the game story for the paper. Freshman Dorian Finney-Smith finally ended the drought with a putback layup with a little more than six minutes remaining in the first half, but it wasn’t long before he got rejected by the rim on an uncontested dunk along the baseline.
By the time the game was over, the Hokies had tied their season high for turnovers (17) and scored fewer points than it had in any other loss this season (Virginia Tech managed to beat Virginia on the road last by month scoring just 47 points). Junior guard Erick Green was once again frustrated Thursday night because it seems the Hokies are making the same sort of mistakes that have haunted them throughout this downswing.
“We were just careless with the ball, all of us were,” Green said. “For some reason, we just always come out flat. Clemson was probably the first one we didn’t come out flat. When they came out, got a big lead on us and we tried to cut it back, turnovers hurt us. We did an all-right job on the glass, but things like that happen. We just got to learn to up the intensity when we come out.”
Green, who is averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game, has been the only consistent cog for the Hokies this year. Seniors Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila had improved their play of late, but Thursday they led Virginia Tech with seven turnovers combined.
Meanwhile, three members of the Hokies’ highly touted freshmen class have seen their performances deteriorate in recent weeks. Here are the gory details:
Guard Robert Brown -- After scoring in double figures five times in Virginia Tech’s first 12 games of the season, he has done it just once since, even though he moved into the starting lineup during that time.
Forward Dorian Finney-Smith – He finally broke out of an 0-for-25 shooting slump against Clemson with a 12-point, eight rebound performance. But he had that embarrassing missed dunk Thursday night – on the bright side, he did grab eight rebounds — and is still shooting a team-worst 30.7 percent from the floor right now.
Forward C.J. Barksdale – After Greenberg increased Barksdale’s playing after the Hokies loss to Wake Forest to begin ACC play, the 6-8 forward has been held scoreless in four-straight games and played a total of 19 minutes in the past three contests.
The good news is that Boston College, which is on pace to become the first ACC team with 20 losses since Clemson accomplished that feat in 2000, comes to Blacksburg on Sunday evening for a 6 p.m. tip. The bad news is that last month the Hokies lost to the Eagles, who are coming off a stunning upset of No. 15 Florida State.
And yet as Greenberg closed his news conference late Thursday, he kept coming back to those strong practices earlier in the week that had him believing, “We’re really locked in,” before his team went out and proved him wrong.
“If you have a pulse, you’re disappointed in how you play,” Greenberg said. “I don’t think I have to check their temperature to know they were disappointed. Especially they knew they had good practices leading up to this game. They really did. . . . We’ve just got to regroup and get ready for Sunday.”