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Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest: Hokies pick up a 76-62 road win

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 12:16 AM

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - There likely won't be any more nights like Tuesday, when the Virginia Tech men's basketball team can start out slowly and still emerge with a relatively easy 76-62 road victory over Wake Forest.

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Now, though, comes the hard part with ESPN's "College Gameday" and No. 1 Duke paying a visit to Cassell Coliseum this Saturday.

"We knew we had to get through this game," senior Malcolm Delaney said. "I can't lie to you and say we weren't looking forward to the Duke game, because we were. But we couldn't slip up in this game, and we had to get a win going into Duke to get some momentum."

Delaney and senior Jeff Allen led the way with 17 points apiece and the Hokies shot 60 percent from the floor against an overmatched Demon Deacon squad. Allen, who Coach Seth Greenberg said afterward was "sick as a dog" with a stomach virus, saw his streak of seven-consecutive double-doubles come to an end as he had only eight rebounds.

But on this evening, it was the play of freshman Jarell Eddie that may be the most encouraging development for Virginia Tech as it tries to fight its way into the NCAA tournament.

Eddie, who was charged last Tuesday with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and forced to sit out the Hokies' upset loss to Virginia last Saturday, finished with a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-6 shooting from the floor.

The 6-foot-7 wing from Charlotte was not made available to the media following the game, and Greenberg again declined to discuss Eddie's off-court situation during his postgame news conference.

But Eddie, whose previous career high of 12 points came in Virginia Tech's 94-65 rout of Wake Forest last month, provided a much-needed boost off the bench for the Hokies. Virginia Tech's reserves had accounted for just eight of the team's points in the past four games.

"Jarell's obstacle is learning how to play hard and his definition of playing hard and mine are not exactly in the same hemisphere. Today they were a little bit closer," Greenberg said. "When he learns to be more competitive, I think he has a chance to be really special."

The Hokies started the game sluggishly in front of an announced crowd of 9,482 that appeared much smaller, as both Allen and sophomore Erick Green (12 points) found themselves in early foul trouble. Wake Forest drew to within 20-18 with just over seven minutes left in the opening half, but that was as close as the score got.

Eddie promptly hit a three-pointer, and Virginia Tech entered halftime on a 10-2 run that provided a 13-point cushion. Eight minutes into the second half that margin had stretched to 21 points and the game was never in doubt again.

Forward Travis McKie led Wake Forest with 22 points and nine rebounds.

"With college basketball the way it is today, there's enormous amount of pressure on a game like today. I think we handled it pretty gracefully," Greenberg said. "You're about to host 'College Gameday' and . . . it would have been we'd be going into one of the greatest events in Virginia Tech basketball history [with] a two-game losing streak to two teams that everyone says could hurt our RPI and our bubble chances. So there's a risk."

But there are no more Wake Forests on the schedule with three games remaining in the regular season. After the Blue Devils, the Hokies will face fellow bubble teams Boston College and Clemson to close the year.

First, though, comes Saturday and the chance for the Hokies to add just the type of signature win their NCAA tournament resume has been missing. The question that remains after such a lopsided win is will they be ready to seize that moment?

"We'll find out on Saturday," Allen said with a smile. "I think we are."

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