Virginia Tech vs. Longwood: Hokies sluggish, yet still win by 18

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2011; 1:17 AM

BLACKSBURG, VA. - While Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg will ultimately be judged on whether the Hokies get enough quality wins to make the NCAA tournament, it's games like Saturday's 70-52 victory over Longwood that wear on him most.

Just 48 hours after a resounding road victory at Maryland and three days before a game at Georgia Tech, a nonconference battle against a team ranked No. 327 in the RPI was an emotional letdown waiting to happen.

And following a 7-0 run by Longwood eight minutes into the second half, that's exactly the situation the Hokies found themselves in, leading by just five and playing with little urgency.

So Greenberg snarled and glared at his players. He slammed his hand against the scorer's table in disgust several times. He even had a testy exchange with Longwood Coach Mike Gillian as the two teams left the floor for halftime.

At one point in the first half, Greenberg remained crouched outside his team's huddle during a TV timeout, deep in thought while his assistants delivered instructions. How, he wondered, could he persuade his team to play the way it did just two days earlier against the Terrapins?

He never did get an answer, even though Virginia Tech (13-5) used a 20-4 run to pull away late and emerge with its ninth victory in 10 games. Senior Malcolm Delaney led the Hokies with 23 points, while sophomore Erick Green chipped in with 14 points and five assists.

"That was about as much fun as getting a root canal," Greenberg said as he sat down for his postgame news conference.

But there were plenty of warning signs that this could be an underwhelming effort. Though the announced attendance was 9,847, there were large pockets of empty seats at a quieter-than-usual Cassell Coliseum.

Those who did show up may have had their attention focused elsewhere. The Hokies' football team is hosting five-star linebacker recruit Stephone Anthony on an official visit this weekend, and he made an appearance at Saturday night's game.

Perhaps most important to the basketball team's future was that it emerged from Saturday night unscathed. Last year when Virginia Tech faced Longwood, Delaney injured his ankle. This time, Greenberg winced every time one of his eight remaining scholarship players landed on the floor hard.

"We just got through it," Delaney said. "It's just good to win the game. We don't care how we won it."

The Hokies fell behind by five early but used a 12-0 spurt at the end of the first half to grab a 10-point lead at halftime. Virginia Tech held Longwood (7-15) to just seven field goals in the first half, and the Lancers shot just 37 percent for the game.

The Hokies, meanwhile, found their shooting touch in time for the second half. They more than doubled their first-half field goal percentage, shooting 61.5 percent after halftime, to put Longwood away down the stretch.

"In the first half, we were kind of frustrated because they were sticking with us," said senior Terrell Bell, who had seven points and seven rebounds. "After our win over Maryland, we thought we had things rolling, so the second half we had to pick it up."

Greenberg shouldered some of the blame for the sluggish performance. He didn't have his back-court players get the ball to forward Jeff Allen (six points, 10 rebounds), even though Allen had a five-inch advantage on the Lancers player guarding him. Greenberg added that his team "just didn't have the energy" from the start, the result of tired legs after investing so much into the Maryland win.

The Hokies will play their third game in six days Tuesday night against Georgia Tech. Lucky for Greenberg, it means there's little time to stew over this one.

"I'm happy it's over with. I'm happy no one got hurt. I'm happy we scored more points than them," Greenberg said. "But that's about all I'm happy with."

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