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With So Much to Gain, Hokies Supply Very Little

Lopsided Defeat May Cost Virginia Tech an NCAA At-Large Berth: North Carolina State 74, Virginia Tech 54

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page E13

RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 26 -- With about four minutes left in Saturday's game between Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, a picture of the "Energy Meter," a device that supposedly measures crowd noise, was shown on the scoreboard at RBC Center. Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg might have used it to check the pulse of his players.

For a team that supposedly had so much to play for, Virginia Tech seemed lethargic and largely indifferent during its 74-54 loss to the Wolfpack in front of a crowd of 16,647. So, with their two-game winning streak stopped, the Hokies go into the final week of the regular season perhaps needing to win both of their remaining games, at Clemson on Tuesday night and at home against Maryland on Saturday, to receive serious consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Seth Greenberg
Seth Greenberg
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg can barely stand to watch as the Hokies suffer a 74-54 loss to N.C. State. (Karl DeBlaker - AP)

The Hokies (14-11, 7-7 ACC) not only lost to N.C. State for the 17th consecutive time here, but because this defeat was so lopsided, they might have given the NCAA men's basketball committee a reason to select the Wolfpack over them when at-large bids are announced March 13. Virginia Tech fell into a three-way tie with Maryland and Georgia Tech for fourth place in the ACC standings.

N.C. State (16-11, 6-8), which already had a higher Ratings Percentage Index ranking than the Hokies, moved within one game of fourth place and two games below .500 in the ACC standings. The Wolfpack will close the regular season at Virginia on Wednesday and against No. 6 Wake Forest here on March 6.

"We played sloppy and were doing a lot of crazy stuff," Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon said. "We just came out so flat and weren't in the game. By the time we got into the game, it was over."

The outcome was all but decided less than seven minutes into the game. The Hokies led 4-0, but then the Wolfpack scored the next 17 points and led 17-4 after guard Engin Atsur's three-pointer with 13 minutes 28 seconds remaining in the first half. Virginia Tech never got closer than seven the rest of the way, and N.C. State led by 27 points during the second half.

"I'm very proud of our basketball team," Greenberg said. "I think we've made a lot of progress. But I wasn't proud of them tonight. The bottom line is all of this stuff is new to us. One thing about this league, you've got to be mentally, emotionally and physically ready to play every night or you're going to get beat. If you don't compete and play at a high level, you're going to get waxed in this league."

The Hokies certainly got waxed, as N.C. State dominated them on both sides of the court. Virginia Tech shot less than 38 percent and its 54 points were its second-lowest total of the season (North Carolina beat the Hokies, 85-51, on Dec. 19). The Hokies made only 15 of 26 free throws and scored only five points on fast breaks. N.C. State forced 18 turnovers, shot 60 percent in the second half and 50 percent on three-point attempts in the game.

"The mood on the team was kind of happy-go-lucky," Hokies guard Zabian Dowdell said. "People weren't prepared to go out and take people's heads off. It's really surprising. It's something you don't need to happen at this point in the season. We need to be coming out bowing our necks and fighting to get into the NCAA tournament."

During N.C. State's 17-0 run early in the first half, Virginia Tech didn't score for more than seven minutes, not until reserve forward Jeff King hit senior Carlos Dixon with a backdoor pass for a layup with 11:18 left in the half. Dowdell made a three-pointer to cut N.C. State's lead 17-9 with 10:19 to play in the half, but the Wolfpack went back in front 26-13 on another Atsur three-pointer with about six minutes to go.

The Hokies trailed 33-20 at halftime and then N.C. State used a 10-0 run early in the second half to bury them. Atsur led the Wolfpack with 18 points and made all four of his three-point attempts. Dowdell had 12 points, and he was the only Virginia Tech player to score in double figures. Gordon and Dixon combined to miss 14 of 18 shots.

"They were pushing us, but we weren't pushing back," Dowdell said. "That's what happens when you let a team push you around like that. You're not going to win."

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