has lost four consecutive basketball games for the first time in six years. The Hokies absorbed their worst defeat of the season Thursday and were overwhelmed in the second half by eighth-ranked
But junior point guard Erick Green wasn’t about to concede anything.
“People think we’re a bad team,” he said after Tech’s 82-68 setback at Cassell Coliseum, “but we’re not.”
Well, the Hokies have been bad recently. There’s just no sugarcoating losses at
, no matter the thin margins in both, no matter the knee injury that sidelined Green at BC.
But they were not bad Thursday. They played hard and, in stretches, very well.
Tech simply lost to a better team, one as talented as any in the country – press row was littered with
scouts and, no offense intended, they weren’t here to see Green, Dorenzo Hudson or Victor Davila.
Humbled by a 33-point loss at
on Saturday and trailing by five at halftime Thursday, the Tar Heels (16-3, 3-1
) erupted after intermission to quiet the first sellout at Cassell this season.
Their defense harassed the Hokies (11-7, 0-4) into 15 straight missed shots, their bigs dominated the boards 28-9, and their best player,
, scored 21 of his game-high 27 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field.
“Barnes made some ridiculous shots,” Tech coach
said. “The guy makes hard shots look easy. … He made one fade, like, he’ll be getting paid $3 million a year for that shot next year.”
ACC opponents can only hope that Barnes, a sophomore, takes his considerable skills to the NBA. And that junior
(16 points, 16 rebounds and six of Carolina’s nine blocked shots) does likewise.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond,” Green said.
“This is going to come as a shock probably to some of you but I like my team,” Greenberg said, “and I think we’re showing improvement. In the second half they may have worn us down a little bit. …
“It’s real easy to be doom and gloom and have a whole bunch of negative energy and that’s not going to happen. I think we took a step forward. That team we played is a very, very good basketball team that played really well in the second half, really well. We did not play as composed. …
“In the first half we had a good tempo. When we ran, we ran. When we didn’t run, we went into the clock a little bit. … In the second half, we didn’t have that same poise.”
The Hokies now need to summon a collective poise. They sit last in the ACC, the only team without a conference victory, and the upcoming schedule is not kind.
Tech plays at No. 15
on Sunday, followed by a home test against
, a road game at
and home date with No. 4
. See many Ws there?
Moreover, absent some wins, will the Hokies attract more crowds like Thursday’s?
“You need that, even when you’re 0-4 and struggling,” Greenberg said of the support. “They’ll be some negativity ( from fans). That’s just all part of it. That goes with the deal.
“The crowd was great, and you saw how the kids responded. We just couldn’t hang on with it.”
Indeed, the Hokies made 8-of-16 first-half 3-pointers, only 5-of-15 thereafter. Their misses fueled the Tar Heels’ transition, and a 44-36 lead became a 67-49 deficit in a flash.
That’s a 31-5 run, and the first 19 points were in succession.
“Once they get hot, once they get going, it’s Carolina,” Green said.
Green scored a team-high 17 points, despite an ailing left knee that he described as less than full strength. Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Dorenzo Hudson scored 16, all in the first half.
Freshman Robert Brown started in Hudson’s stead as Greenberg searched for a spark from his reserves.
“He made his first five shots,” Greenberg said of Hudson. “It looked brilliant for awhile there.”
But unlike Florida State on Saturday, Tech was unable to sustain its long-range shooting. And unlike the Seminoles, the Hokies do not have a post player such as Bernard James to score inside.
Tech made just 12-of-37 shots from inside the arc, and their overall percentage of 36.8 marked their fourth game in a row below 40 percent, unprecedented during their eight ACC seasons.
“Have you ever shot over (Tyler) Zeller and Henson?” Greenberg asked good-naturedly. “I think they have a little bit to do with it. You want to take it in there to pitch it back out.
“How did Florida State beat them? Bernard James is a mountain masquerading as a man. … What really happened is, Florida State beat them because they made a lot (12) of 3s.”
The Hokies will not face a more skilled opponent than they did Thursday, and the schedule spares them a return game at North Carolina.
“I think this team is growing and the experience we’re gaining is very, very valuable in the big picture,” Greenberg said.
That experience needs to translate on the scoreboard in a hurry, lest a discouraging start mushroom into a disheartening season.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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