Hokies Barely Get by Mount St. Mary's

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 17 -- Malcolm Delaney caught the ball along the three-point line, his feet set for a shot that could have given Virginia Tech a two-point lead. As Delaney elevated and released, a Mount St. Mary's defender closed in and extended his arms. A moment later, the whistle sounded.

The first look on the face of Mountaineers forward Markus Mitchell was disbelief, knowing his foul would result in three free throws, all of which Delaney made. Then came frustration as he left the court after fouling out. Finally, a dazed look overtook Mitchell and his teammates, who witnessed a lead for much of the game quickly evaporate in the game's final minutes and turn into Virginia Tech's 62-57 win on Monday night.

"We had the right guy shoot free throws," Coach Seth Greenberg said.

All but five of Delaney's 18 points came from the foul line, where he was 13 for 15. Nine came in the final 52 seconds. That was all the Hokies needed during a game in which they were mostly outplayed.

"I was kind of down on myself that I didn't hit the second free throw two times in a row," said Delaney, focusing more on his blemishes than the bravado that catapulted the Hokies to their second consecutive win.

The concern is that neither win was especially convincing and the offense has appeared lackadaisical while escaping both games.

Virginia Tech shot just 30.4 percent in the first half, and a paltry 28.6 percent from three-point range. The second half was not much better from the field -- Virginia Tech made only 15 of its 45 shots overall -- but the foul line proved to be the salvation for the Hokies. They nailed 27 of 32 free throws, compared with Mount St. Mary's 9 of 13.

In a game decided by five points, that was the difference.

"I'm kind of surprised," Delaney said of the offense's struggles. "With another asset to the offense, we're going to try to get deeper. We'll start picking it up."

Delaney identified freshman Victor Davila as that asset. The freshman scored eight points and pulled down six rebounds in 18 minutes after playing just two in the season opener.

"I think we saw Victor Davila grow up a little bit in front of our eyes and get a glimpse of what potentially he could do," Greenberg said. "I think he's going to be a very good low-post scorer."

But Greenberg said three other key parts of the Hokies' rotation -- Dorenzo Hudson, Terrell Bell and Hank Thorns -- need to emerge for the team to reach its potential.

How quickly that occurs will dictate the success of Virginia Tech's first month. On Tuesday, the team departs for the airport at 4 a.m. for a flight to Puerto Rico, where it will play in a tournament that includes Memphis, Xavier and Southern California in its eight-team field.

As complimentary as Greenberg remained toward Mount St. Mary's, he will see a different level of basketball in San Juan. Despite two scares, though, he was able to reach the tournament unscathed.

"I know we've got to get better," Greenberg said. "But working on getting better coming off a win is all right."

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