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“You can only give so many Knute Rockne speeches,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said.
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson looks on during practice Wednesday at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Virginia Tech’s Erick Green scored 29 points in the Hokies’ first meeting with N.C State, a 90-86 overtime loss on Feb. 16.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The season could end Thursday for the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.
If the Hokies play like they did in their last game, it most certainly will.
The 12th-seeded Hokies will face fifth-seeded North Carolina State in the first round of the ACC Tournament at 2:30 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Virginia Tech (13-18, 4-14) is coming off last weekend’s 90-79 loss at Wake Forest. Wake scored the first nine points and led by as many as 24, with Tech coach James Johnson saying after the defeat that his team wasn’t ready to play.
What can Johnson do to motivate his team so it is ready to play against the Wolfpack?
“It’s the guys. They’ve just got to be ready to play. You can only give so many Knute Rockne speeches,” Johnson said. “The guys have to come ready to play … and get off to a good start. We’ve been up and down with that all year, coming out and starting the game. Some games we’ll start and we’re ready to play. Some games, we dig ourselves a hole.
“We’ve got a young group. … We’re still trying to figure it out as far as how to prepare to play a game, how to prepare to play 40 minutes, how to play hard for 40 minutes.”
Erick Green tied his career high with 35 points at Wake, but he wasn’t happy with his teammates. He said after the loss that the Hokies had “no energy” and “didn’t come to play.”
“Thursday night, … if you don’t come to play, you’re going to get embarrassed,” Green said.
Even though the Hokies finished in the ACC cellar, N.C. State (22-9, 11-7) isn’t likely to look past them. Virginia Tech took the Wolfpack to overtime on Feb. 16 in Raleigh, N.C., before losing 90-86.
“They played extremely well against us, so I don’t think there’s any chance that our players will overlook Virginia Tech,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
Green scored 29 points in the first meeting, which Tech led 60-53 with 7:49 left in regulation.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence going in. We had them,” Green said. “There’s been so many upsets in the ACC Tournament over the years. If you can just go in there with a clear mind, a fresh start, and just play ball, anything can happen.”
Tech was 11 of 23 from 3-point range in the first meeting.
“We’re better defensively now than we were then,” Gottfried said.
The Hokies hung with N.C. State even though they attempted only seven free throws, all by Green. And two of those came after a technical foul was called on the Wolfpack. Another two came after N.C. State sought to foul Green when it had a three-point lead in the waning seconds of regulation.
State was 31 of 43 from the free throw line.
Johnson blames his team, not the officials, for the free throw disparity. He wants his players to be more aggressive in the rematch.
“We’ve got to get some more guys attacking the basket, get the ball inside to our post guys,” he said. “We did a good job on the offensive glass, but we didn’t get possession of the ball and take it up strong and shot-fake it and get to the free throw line. We didn’t have enough guards attacking the basket.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting to the line, be more aggressive getting in there and attacking the basket and not settling for the 3-point shot.”
North Carolina State ranks second in the ACC in scoring offense (77.7 ppg). Johnson hopes Green’s supporting cast can help the Hokies keep up.
“We’ve got to have some other guys make some plays because they do a good job scoring,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to score. They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
N.C. State features All-ACC first-team pick Richard Howell (12.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg), second-team pick Lorenzo Brown (12.5 ppg, 7 assists per game) and third-team pick C.J. Leslie (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg). But Johnson is also worried about Scott Wood, who had 22 points and six 3-pointers in the first meeting.
“We’ve got to find a way to do a better job on Scott Wood, limit his touches,” Johnson said. “And also, we’ve got to do a good job in the paint on Leslie and Howell.”
The Hokies forced overtime in the first meeting when Jarell Eddie swooped in from behind the 3-point arc and scored on a putback off a free throw that Green intentionally missed. It turned out that officials should not have allowed the basket because Eddie left his spot behind the 3-point arc while Green’s free throw was still in the air.
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