Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech lay it on the line in 70-59 win over Clemson

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 7, 2010

BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Much of Virginia Tech's 70-59 win over Clemson on Saturday was about as visually appealing as the slush that carpeted the sidewalks outside Cassell Coliseum.

But this was a win the Hokies needed if they want to make the NCAA tournament.

Virginia Tech (18-4, 5-3 ACC) built an impressive record with an easy nonconference schedule, but its win over Clemson was its first against a team ranked in the top 50 of the Ratings Percentage Index, the measurement of a team's strength that is used in the NCAA tournament selection process. The Tigers (16-7, 4-5) were 32nd in the RPI entering the game.

While the Hokies' résumé will receive a boost from the crucial win, it was not a thing of beauty. Virginia Tech scored 38 points on 46 free-throw attempts. Clemson turned over the ball 17 times, aiding a Hokies offense that shot just 30.6 percent.

"That was a game where two teams' offenses were offensive and defenses were aggressive," Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg said. "I don't know how to describe, except that both teams played so hard defensively. Offensively, they set the game back a couple of years."

Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies with 30 points but shot only 5 of 14 from the field. He went 20 for 23 at the foul line to tie a school record for free throws made in a game, which was first set by teammate Dorenzo Hudson in a win over Seton Hall on Jan. 2.

Clemson was aggressive in trying to block shots, so Delaney tried to pump fake and head fake on his shots. Clemson forward Trevor Booker picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes 14 seconds remaining after biting on a fake by Delaney. Booker, the Tigers' leading scorer and a good shot blocker, played only 23 minutes.

"Trevor is one of the best players in the league, one of the best in the country," Clemson Coach Oliver Purnell said. "Taking him out of the game is like taking Delaney away from Virginia Tech. It was clearly an issue today."

Virginia Tech was flat early on as a result of the quick turnaround from its win Thursday night over North Carolina. On Saturday, the Hokies missed their first nine shots and failed to get into any offensive rhythm in the opening half. They shot only 15.4 percent from the field after making 4 of 26 attempts.

Virginia Tech played better in the second half and received big performances from freshmen Erick Green (eight points) and Cadarian Raines (three rebounds, a steal and a block) and junior Jeff Allen, who finished with 13 points and four steals. He scored five consecutive points in an 8-2 spurt to help the Hokies nudge to a 10-point lead in the second half.

"It was an ugly game but that's our team," Delaney said. "I'm pretty sure if you look at the stats in the ACC, we're not at the top. We're a scrappy team. These are the type of games we win."

Part of the reason Virginia Tech was left out of the NCAA tournament each of the past two years, in addition to losses to weak opponents, was a dearth of quality wins. In fact, the Hokies were 3-16 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI in those years.

"It's only a good win if you continue to win," Greenberg said of Saturday's victory. "What it does is it makes the next game that much more important."

Virginia Tech plays at North Carolina State on Wednesday and then returns to Blacksburg to host Virginia on Saturday.

But the Hokies will head to the backstretch of their ACC schedule with an added boost, and an important notch on their NCAA tournament résumé, after picking up a needed quality victory.

"Am I pleased, am I excited, am I proud? Like I told our guys, it has a chance to be a special group, no doubt about it," Greenberg said. "But we have four weeks left in the season, so we have to get better. And we will."

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