Last Thursday night, after he exploded for a career-high 35 points in a loss to Virginia, Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green said it didn’t matter. The Hokies had gone down to defeat, and none of the scoring could remove the downcast expression on his face.
But Wednesday, after the Hokies dropped their third straight game, 73-64 to No. 14 Miami, Green made sure nobody thought those sorts of performances were getting old. He had produced another 30-point performance, dueling Hurricanes sophomore Shane Larkin throughout in an entertaining battle of talented point guards.
This time, though, he was ready to take stock of what it’s like to be the nation’s leading scorer on a team that has come out on the short end in seven of its last nine games and fallen to 11-9, 2-5 ACC.
“I take the challenge every day. I read what people say in the paper,” Green said. “They’re gonna try to shut me down, so I take this challenge and try to challenge myself. I’m not gonna allow you to shut me down. I don’t care how many people you throw at me. I’m gonna make plays, not only for myself but for my teammates, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.”
Green’s run through the regular season is starting to draw national attention, and it inspired superlatives from both coaches involved in Wednesday night’s game. Virginia Tech’s James Johnson could only describe Green’s play – he has scored more than 20 points in all but one game this season and is currently shooting a career-high 49.8 percent from the field – as “absolutely amazing. “
But Miami Coach Jim Larranaga went one step further, especially because the two-time All Met from Winchester has averaged 30 points going up against the ACC’s three best defenses over the past week. Green is now averaging 25.5 points per game this season, 1.6 more than Creighton’s Doug McDermott – the nation’s second-leading scorer — and seven points more than any other player in the ACC.
“I thought going to Virginia Tech, you know, he would have a very nice career, but he’s developed into the leading scorer in the country. That’s a whole ’nother level,” said Larranaga, who recruited Green when he was at George Mason. “When everybody’s attention is on you, you’re gonna get every defender’s best effort. You’re getting every team’s best defender on the perimeter. It is very, very hard to continue to produce the way he has. It’s a remarkable accomplishment by him.”
On Wednesday night, Green also went up against a worthy challenger. At first, he thought Miami’s Durand Scott would be his biggest threat, but it turned out to be Larkin, who finished with a team-high 25 points.
The two went back-and-forth, trading three-pointers midway through the second half when the Hokies momentarily regained the lead. But Green got little help from his teammates, particularly forward Jarell Eddie and sophomore Robert Brown. That duo accounted for just one field goal in the second half and the Hokies had three starters score just two points combined.
“He just needs a little bit more help and he needs guys to step up and make plays for him,” Johnson said. “He’s putting us in position, but we’ve got to find a way to finish it off.”
Not that Green has any plans on slowing down. He’s relishing all the notoriety his scoring has generated of late, and even after another spectacular showing went to waste, he wasn’t ready to throw his teammates under the bus, either.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in my four years. And I know we’re losing and it’s probably crazy for me to say that, but I’m having a great time with these guys in my last year,” he said, a smile emerging moments after another defeat. “These guys are getting me open and I’m just making shots and I’m having a great time. I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”