BLACKSBURG, Va. — Perhaps in a few years, with more recruiting classes under his belt, first-year Virginia Tech Coach James Johnson will trot out the sort of veteran-laden lineup that could have kept up with No. 14 Miami the entire night.
For now, though, he’s stuck with a roster that’s short on bodies and relies too heavily on one star player. So even a fast start wasn’t enough to overcome the best team in the ACC.
The Hurricanes blew past Virginia Tech, 73-64, at Cassell Coliseum Wednesday night, dealing the Hokies their third straight loss and seventh defeat in nine games.
Miami fell behind by double digits before halftime, but used a 16-2 run that spanned the end of the first half and the start of the second half to grab hold of the momentum. The Hurricanes then pulled away during a 10-0 surge with less than nine minutes remaining in the game. It came right after nine consecutive points by senior Erick Green allowed Virginia Tech to momentarily regain the lead and ignite the crowd.
Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin paced the Hurricanes with 25 points, dueling Green all night long in an entertaining battle. Larkin, who Johnson called “the head of the snake” when asked about Miami after the game, sealed the victory with his fifth three-pointer of the game when Virginia Tech cut its deficit to four with less than two minutes remaining.
Senior Kenny Kadji added 18 points for the Hurricanes (16-3, 7-0 ACC), who never trailed over the final 11 minutes of the contest and became the 13th team this season to hit at least eight three-pointers against Virginia Tech.
“We’re so close,” a frustrated Johnson said he told his team before the game. “That’s the best team in the league and one of the hottest teams in the country and we’re right there. We just have to be able to finish, but we need other guys to step up and make the plays that are there.”
But Green, the nation’s leading scorer, was again a force. He finished with 30 points and kept the Hokies afloat throughout. Miami Coach Jim Larranaga even called Green’s production this season “a remarkable accomplishment.” But Virginia Tech (11-9, 2-5) was ultimately done in by an offense that turned the ball over 17 times and had just four players contribute more than one field goal.
Junior Jarell Eddie added 14 points and forward Cadarian Raines chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench for the second time this season.
“We gotta have guys be more consistent and make more plays to be able to beat some good teams,” Green said.
Miami entered Wednesday night red hot, armed with a 6-0 league record for the first time in school history and a 27-point blowout victory over then-No. 1 Duke last week.
Early on, though, Virginia Tech resembled the team that started this season 7-0, with multiple offensive options aside from Green. From the outset, he received help from Eddie and Brown, and the trio combined to score 28 of the Hokies’ 32 first-half points.
Brown jump-started a 10-2 run when he promptly hit two three-pointers upon entering Wednesday’s contest, including one that spun around the rim three times before going through the basket. He had missed all but one of his previous 28 shots from beyond the arc.
But Brown and Eddie combined for just one field goal after halftime, offsetting the advantage Virginia Tech gained by shooting 54.2 percent from the floor in the first half.
“People that are supposed to make plays aren’t making plays,” Brown said. “Erick had a fantastic game, but we can’t rely on him to win the game for us. One person can’t do it.”