The Hokies had leads of 30-16 and 65-51, but in both cases, were unable to hold on to those margins, allowing the Spartans to get back even and even take the lead in the second scenario. But despite some shoddy defense, poor defensive rebounding, carelessness with the ball and forcing shots on offense, the Hokies were able to come from behind for the win.
Despite going down 3-0 early after a missed Cadarian Raines shot in the post and a Trevis Simpson 3-pointer, Tech responded with a 23-6 run over the next seven minutes to put them up 23-9. That run included four 3-pointers, three of which were from walk on wunderkind Will Johnston, the only three shots he took all game.
After a Korey Van Dussen (that's right, Tech isn't the only team sporting a Dutch guy name) 3-pointer that made it 23-12, Tech went on the offensive again, extending the lead to 30-16 on an Erick Green steal and dunk with just over 9 minutes remaining in the first half.
Tech then went cold from the field, making only six buckets the remainder of the half. During that nine-minute span, UNCG by comparison hit nine buckets and several free throws, going on a 25-15 run to make it a 45-41 Hokie lead at half.
After keeping it close in the opening minutes of the second half, three Robert Brown threes opened it back up, providing the Hokies with a 56-45 lead with just under 17 minutes remaining. After exchanging a flurry of threes, Jarell Eddie blew the game open with his 3-pointer with 14:34 left to give the Hokies a 14-point lead at 65-51, tied for the largest margin of the game. But again, the Hokies didn't handle the lead well, failing to make a single bucket over the next seven minutes, relying solely on free throws for their only points. When the Hokies finally did break that streak with a Jarell Eddie layup, it was to break a 71-71 tie, after which Tech again went cold for four and a half minutes, making only one shot during that stretch, and allowing UNCG to collect a four-point lead during that stretch before free throws put them back on top 78-77 with 4:18 remaining.
Though the Spartans would never surpass the Hokies again in the game, but made it interesting by fouling the Hokies early on, turning it into a glorified free throw-fest while the Spartans chucked up repeated threes. But because of the Hokies failures beating the press, hitting free throws, boxing out and shutting down easy driving lanes to the basket, the Spartans made it a four-point game with under a minute remaining. But ultimately the margin was too much to overcome for the home team as long as they kept putting Jarell Eddie and Erick Green on the line.
Eddie led the Hokies with 28 points on 7-9 from the floor, 5-5 from deep and 9-10 from the stripe. Green finished with 26 on 4-15 from the field, 2-4 from 3 land and 16-16 from the line. They were joined in double figures by Robert Brown who had 10 on 3-7 from the floor, 3-5 from 3, and 1-2 from the line. Cadarian Raines put together another strong game down low with 9 points and 9 rebounds, especially considering that the Hokies went away from the post so often. Will Johnston also continued to impress, hitting all 3 of his 3-pointers, his only shots once again, putting him at 8-13 for the season. Not bad for a walk on, huh? Also of note, Marquis Rankin saw his biggest playing time of the season to date, tallying 2 points in 8 minutes. Freshman Marshall Wood had a very up-and-down game, collecting a career-high and team-leading 11 rebounds, 1-5 from the floor (all 3's) and 2-4 from the line for 5 points. He really needs to improve his shot selection (as do most of the Hokies using tonight as a barometer) if the Hokies have any chance of being something special this season.
For the game, Tech shot 45% from the floor, a blistering 64% from 3-point range and 81% from the line on 42 attempts, clearly the difference in the game, as the Spartans took 22 more shots from the field, making 8 more than the Hokies. If Tech hadn't gotten into the lane and to the line they would have lost this 3-point shooting fest. The teams combined for 25 3-pointers. Trevis Simpson and Derrell Armstrong did most of the heavy lifting for UNCG on the night, scoring 25 and 23 respectively, and hitting seven three pointers between them. Tech was equaled on the boards at 37, but gave up 11 offensive rebounds. Tech also had 8 blocks in the game, but posted a negative assist-to-turnover ratio at 13-to-14.
Clearly there are improvements to be made, but Tech is 4-0 under Coach Johnson, and the players seem to be taking to the system. They return home to host Appalachian State on Friday, beginning a three-game home stand.
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