BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech senior Dorenzo Hudson admitted he actually had some jitters when he played his first game in close to 11 months since undergoing season-ending foot surgery this past Saturday. But the senior shook off whatever rust existed Monday night, leading the Hokies to an easy 91-46 victory over Monmouth in a first round matchup of the NIT season Tip-Off.
Buoyed by the return of back-court mate Erick Green, Hudson finished with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in just 23 minutes and freshman Robert Brown added a game-high 19 points as Virginia Tech was never threatened. Perhaps more important, Hudson showed plenty of signs that he can return to being the same player that earned third team all-ACC honors during the 2009 season.
“I felt a lot better and more relaxed than Saturday,” said Hudson, a Charlotte native who averaged 15.2 points per game two years ago. “Just having a second game in a short amount of time was very good for me. Being out 11 months, it was pretty tough for me to come out and play well in the first game.”
When Hudson had a tentative nine-point showing in Virginia Tech’s season-opening win over East Tennessee State, he was forced to split time at point guard because Green missed the game with a strained Achilles’ tendon.
But after testing the injury in the morning, Green was in the Hokies’ starting lineup Monday and hit two three-pointers during the first half. He finished with 11 points and five assists, and didn’t appear to be slowed by any lingering pain.
“I was hesitant at first, but after awhile I got right back to how I used to play,” Green said.
It’s a welcome sign for Virginia Tech, which faces the winner of Monday’s nightcap at Cassell Coliseum between George Mason and Florida International on Tuesday for a chance to play at Madison Square Garden as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals on Nov. 23.
Hudson jump-started the Hokies against Monmouth with six early points and two steals, one of which led to a breakaway dunk. Virginia Tech’s lead soon swelled to as much as 21 before halftime as Monmouth, a Northeast Conference team that won just nine games a year ago, was simply overmatched.
The Hokies shot 62.5 percent from the field, and hit 10 of their 15 three-pointers while holding the Hawks to 26.8 percent shooting. Virginia Tech sophomore Tyrone Garland scored a career-high 18 points and forward Jarell Eddie chipped in 13 points, including three three-pointers.
But on an evening when the Hokies were able to play their reserves and freshmen for the majority of the second half, the most important baskets belonged to Hudson, who did most of his damage on backdoor cuts and fastbreak layups with Green pushing the tempo.
Even when he did make mistakes, it seemed as if luck was on Hudson’s side.
At one point in the first half, he hit the side of the backboard on a jump shot, but the ball dropped right into the hands of guard Garland for an easy layup. Later Hudson found himself trapped by two defenders near midcourt but managed to somehow find forward Victor Davila for a thunderous dunk.
But it seems after clawing back from injury, Hudson isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It’s gonna be a process,” Hudson said. “But today I felt was a step forward.”