The Washington Post

Virginia Tech basketball vs. North Carolina: Hokies falter down the stretch

Virginia Tech's Erick Green went scoreless for nearly 20 minutes in the second half and overtime on Saturday against Virginia Tech. (Robert Willett/AP)

Virginia Tech couldn’t pull out a win last week when point guard Erick Green exploded for more than 30 points twice. So when the nation’s leading scorer was held without a point for nearly 20 minutes and didn’t attempt a free throw Saturday, the end result was predictable.

For the second time in four days, the Hokies squandered a double-digit lead, falling in overtime at North Carolina, 72-60. It was Virginia Tech’s fourth straight loss and eighth in 10 games, a skid that has turned the program’s best start in 30 years into a distant memory.

Freshman Marcus Paige was the catalyst for North Carolina, scoring eight of his 19 points after the two teams ended regulation tied at 55. His three-pointer with three minutes remaining in overtime proved to be the deciding basket.

Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo added 22 points and 10 rebounds on an afternoon when the ACC’s highest-scoring team hit just 5 of its 24 three-point attempts with the Hokies playing a 2-3 zone much of the game. North Carolina (15-6, 5-3 ACC) didn’t take its first lead until forward Brice Johnson’s put-back with 9 minutes 29 seconds left in the second half.

Virginia Tech (11-10, 2-6) failed to close largely because Green was held to less than 20 points for just the second time this season. The All-Met from Winchester finished with 16 points, more than nine less than his season average, on 7-of-21 shooting. He also air-balled a potential game-winning step-back jumper from just inside the three-point-line with 4.5 seconds to go in regulation.

After hitting a short runner in the lane with 16:40 remaining in the second half, Green’s next points didn’t come until less than two minutes were left in overtime and the Hokies trailed by seven.

Coach James Johnson said after the game it was “mind-boggling” that Green didn’t get to the free throw line for the first time this season, despite playing a season-high 43 minutes. Green lamented the lack of calls as well — he had attempted 174 free throws entering Saturday, second-most in the nation — but neither was willing to use it as an excuse for another defeat.

“I was just off all day,” Green said. “I just felt like I didn’t make shots. I didn’t make plays. I’m kind of frustrated I didn’t get to the foul line one time, but it’s part of the game and I’ve got to make plays.”

Added North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, who made sure Green faced fresh defenders by rotating Paige and fellow guards Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald on him: “Nothing works against him because he’s really, really good. Everybody had to be aware of him. . . . We were lucky, too, because he missed some shots he normally makes.”

Early on, though, Virginia Tech looked like the sharper team, and it wasn’t just Green producing for a change. The Hokies jumped out to a 12-0 lead and had three other players — forward Jarell Eddie (15 points), forward Cadarian Raines (12 points) and guard Robert Brown (10 points) — finish in double figures.

Even with Green struggling late, his supporting cast still managed to fend off North Carolina’s charge once it initially regained the lead. There were five lead changes and five ties over the final nine minutes of regulation, and Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Joey van Zegeren tied the score at 55 on two free throws with 46 seconds left.

But the Hokies “stopped attacking,” according to Johnson, and hit just 10 of their 32 shots after halftime (31.2 percent). They were outscored 17-5 in overtime.

“I’m pleased with the overall maturation of this team, but I’d like to see it show up in the win-loss column,” Johnson added. “That’s the tough thing right now.”

Mark Giannotto is a Montgomery County native who covers high school sports for The Washington Post. He previously covered Virginia and Virginia Tech football for five years.



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