By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 14, 2011; 12:29 AM
BLACKSBURG, VA. - When the NCAA tournament selection committee is evaluating the Virginia Tech men's basketball team next month, its 102-77 thumping of Georgia Tech on Sunday won't factor much into the decision.
But from the moment senior Malcolm Delaney stood before his teammates to say, "We owe them one," during the Hokies' pregame meal, sophomore Erick Green knew this meant more to Delaney than just another home victory over the Yellow Jackets.
"You could see the fire in his eyes," Green said after Delaney erupted for a season-high 33 points, the second-best total of his four-year career in Blacksburg. "He still had that salty taste in his mouth from the last time he was down there at Georgia Tech and what [guard Iman] Shumpert did. . . . You just knew he was gonna put on a show today."
Green was referencing the Hokies' 72-57 loss to the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta on Jan. 25, a game in which Delaney had just eight points and eight turnovers, including four as Virginia Tech unraveled down the stretch. Meanwhile the man guarding Delaney most of the contest - Shumpert - erupted for the only triple-double in ACC play this season, finishing with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
But it took less than two minutes Sunday for Delaney to show this afternoon would have a different outcome. He scored seven quick points as Virginia Tech (16-7, 6-4 ACC) jumped to an early 9-0 lead and never looked back.
By the time Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt picked up two technical fouls and was ejected from the game with just less than eight minutes remaining in the first half, the lead had swelled to 41-17. Delaney had 22 points on 6-of-6 shooting at halftime as Virginia Tech scored 53 points, its most in a half this season.
The Yellow Jackets cut the lead to 13 twice in the second half, but the Hokies were never truly threatened and led by 30. The 102-point output was the most Virginia Tech has scored in regulation against an ACC opponent since joining the conference in 2004.
Shumpert led Georgia Tech (10-14, 3-8) with 27 points thanks in large part to a barrage of three-pointers during the second half when the game was already well in hand.
But afterward, Delaney shot down the assumption that he had any sort of personal vendetta against Shumpert or the Yellow Jackets because of their previous meeting. His motivation was simple.
"I'm not into one-on-one battles," Delaney said. "I don't have that much more time here, so all I'm trying to do is win and do what I can do for our team to get to our goal. That's all I'm really thinking about."
Delaney wasn't the only Virginia Tech player to deliver an encouraging performance. All five Hokies starters finished in double figures and the team shot 55.2 percent from the floor.
At times, forward Jeff Allen was even more impressive than Delaney, finishing with 25 points and 14 rebounds - his fifth-consecutive double-double and 12th this season.
Green added 15 points and six assists, bouncing back from an 0-for-8 showing in the Hokies' loss to Boston College last weekend. Forwards Terrell Bell and Victor Davila also chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
In the long run, though, the statistics on this afternoon will mean little considering the Yellow Jackets are one of the ACC's cellar dwellers. The Hokies have just six regular season games remaining, and only one day before a rematch with Maryland at Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night.
But what Sunday did show is that after three years of falling short of making the NCAA tournament, these Hokies seem well aware of the urgency at hand.
"They know what's at stake," Coach Seth Greenberg said. "They know every game, it's catastrophic if you lose and relief if you win."