Oops and yikes.
The Hokies began conference play Saturday with a 58-55 defeat at Wake Forest. This against a team that lost to Wofford, at home, in its previous game. This against a program that was 1-15 in the ACC last season.
Dropping that game ratcheted up the stakes Tuesday. Florida State reached the Sweet 16 last season, and media picked the Seminoles to finish third in the ACC this year. But no matter how good Leonard Hamilton’s crew is defensively, there’s no masking its 0-2 record against the Ivy League – losses to Harvard and Princeton.
In short, another game Tech needed to win.
But like Saturday, the Hokies fell behind early, shot poorly throughout and lost the rebounding battle. Erick Green scored a game-high 21 points but missed 10-of-15 shots; Dorenzo Hudson was 2-of-9.
“I can feel better about our effort,” coach Seth Greenberg told Bill Roth on the postgame radio show. “But for some reason in the first 10 minutes we were inept. We were not strong with the ball. The ball was flying out of our hands.”
Indeed, Tech opened 2-for-10 from the field and fell behind 13-4 and 25-14 before heading to halftime down 30-21. The Hokies shot a season-low 30.5 percent against an opponent that’s on pace to lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense for the fourth consecutive season.
The primary reason was Florida State’s 15 blocked shots, which matches Georgetown in 1988 – Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo played on that Hoyas team – for the most ever against Tech and was two shy of the record for an ACC game set by Duke in 1999 against Virginia.
Two blocks Tuesday stand out.
First, Deividas Dulkys, a 6-foot-5 guard, stuffed Green’s perimeter jumper, gained possession and raced for a transition bucket. Dulkys blocked five shots, just two less than he had in the season’s first 15 games.
At 6-10, Bernard James is a more renowned shot-blocker, and in the first half he stoned Dorian Finney-Smith’s dunk attempt at the rim. James finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds, nine offensive, and three blocks.
“He just took the game over physically,” Greenberg said of the late stages. “We didn’t have an answer for him.”
James crashed into Jarell Eddie while snaring an offensive rebound in the waning moments, but officials whistled the foul on Tech, and James converted the 3-point play for a 58-51 lead.
“I thought he came over the back,” Greenberg said, far more diplomatically than I would have.
Still, down 61-59, the Hokies had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds. But after a Tech timeout with 17.8 seconds remaining, Green’s runner in the lane rolled out, and Okaro White’s two free throws sealed it for the Seminoles.
“I can’t complain about the shot he got,” Greenberg said of Green.
Green was Tech’s only double-figure scorer, though freshman Finney-Smith bounced back from a scoreless game at Wake with nine points and 10 rebounds – the Hokies were outboarded 38-34.
Tech (11-5) is 0-2 in the ACC for the first time since 2005-06, a difficult hole from which to emerge, especially with upcoming games against North Carolina at home and at Virginia.
But first comes a Saturday visit to Boston College, where the Hokies have lost each of the last three years. But the Eagles (5-10, 0-1) start five freshmen, not the Fab Five, and figure to be the ACC’s worst team.
In short: a must-win, no-excuse game. Lose and say hello to a fifth straight NIT.
“I’m disappointed, and we need more guys contributing,” Greenberg said during his postgame news conference, according to HokieSports.com. “But this team is going to be a good team. We’ll just keep working. That’s what this thing is all about.”
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP