Hokies Return Home, Overpower Furman 75-54 In Front of Sparse Crowd

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Bench contributions spark the Hokies over the Paladins as Will Johnston and Marshall Wood combine for 25 points on 7-for-11 three-point shooting. For more on the victory, keep reading below.

The final score doesn't overwhelm you. A 21-point margin over another over-matched Southern Conference team, almost identical in format to the Western Carolina game just two weeks ago. But the margin may as well have been 40. The Hokies never even broke a sweat in sending Furman to its third-consecutive defeat, in front of an announced crowd of 1,200 at Cassell Coliseum. Furman had just three players score all game until Keith Belfield netted a bucket with just 19 seconds remaining. Furman's top-three players shot 19-for-39, while everyone else was just 1-of-17. Paladin big man Kendrec Ferrara was 0-for-8, and Keith Belfield 1-of-7, to make up most of that sub-par effort.

True to form, Furman sophomore guard Stephen Croone dominated the ball for the Paladins, playing 38 minutes and scoring 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting. When he got into the painted areas he finished well, shooting 7-for-9. However, he kept in line with his teammates' horrible three-point FG% in shooting 1-of-5, as the Paladins struggled from distance all night, managing just four three-pointers to the Hokies 12. Croone also accounted for all of Furman's (ONLY) four assists on the night. By contrast the Hokies shared the ball tonight better than they have in any other game this season, finishing with 19 assists, led by freshman point guard Devin Wilson and his 11 assists, which tied a VT freshman record. Dell Curry held the record for 29 years and 51 weeks, having set the mark on December 4, 1983 against Maryland-Eastern Shore. Just like a stereotypical cop movie, the record got offed a week before it hit its 30 years. Only thing to do now is re-set the record at 12 or higher, Mr. Wilson, in honor of the fallen partner!

The Hokies jumped out to an 18-3 lead at the 10:30 mark of the first half, allowing just 1-of -13 Furman shots to fall in the first ten minutes. But then the turnover parade began, as the Hokies had seven of their nine turnovers in the final ten minutes of the first half. In one particularly agonizing stretch that spanned just a minute (2:30 mark to 1:17 mark), Joey Van Zegeren (JVZ) turned it over on two consecutive possessions, and was promptly yanked for Trevor Thompson who then committed turnovers on HIS first two touches, to make four consecutive empty trips to the offensive end. Whoever is teaching our bigs how to handle the ball on the block is failing, as they have accounted for 40 of the 97 turnovers on the team this season. There have been too many traveling violations and balls stripped from them as they bring the ball below chest level. Furman took advantage of these turnovers to play 14-13 ball the remainder of the half in order to remain within 14 at the break, 31-17. It wasn't a complete half, with VT once again flashing the intensity to jump out to the lead, but then easing off the pedal to allow the opponent a little life.

Senior Jarell Eddie had a solid, if unspectacular game. He had his second consecutive double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and has been showing a good nose for digging out the long rebounds off of opposing teams' missed three-point shots. If he's close to the paint, he also demonstrates surprising quickness to the glass without letting his transition defense suffer. Eddie though for his team-leading stats wasn't the difference in the game. The difference was the bench, with Joey Van Zegeren, Marshall Wood, and Will Johnston combining for 35 points.

With VT missing their spark plug freshman swingman Ben Emelogu (out due to recurring concussion symptoms from October, re-aggravated against Seton Hall), they were looking for someone to step into the void his injury creates. Marshall Wood and Will Johnston combined for 25 points on 7-of-11 three point shooting. The Hokies "only" shot 12 of 30 from distance tonight, which at 40% is less than their scorching 46+% on the season. But if you take out Jarell Eddie's self-indulgent 2-of-9, it becomes 10-for-21 and therefore right in line with the season average.

Van Zegeren played 22 minutes and totaled 10 points and 5 rebounds, and had three dunks to help off-set his three turnovers. He converted two-of-four from the foul line. Very solid play in the post in place of redshirt senior center Cadarian Raines, who started and played just the first three minutes before never leaving the bench again all night. Here is what Coach Johnson had to say about that:

"We want effort, running the floor. With the lineup out there, I want to get more fluidity to the lineup. I like to see things run a certain way and it wasn't going a certain way. It may not have just been his fault. I wanted to get Joey in the game."  (per Marc Berman, Roanoke Times)

Well, I re-watched Cadarian for the first three minutes of the game, and I can find no discernible evidence that what Johnson was looking for there was lacking. When Raines sat down the Hokies were building on an 8-3 lead; and his only true mistake was guessing wrong on the first little pick and roll Furman tried to run and didn't stay on Croone, as he put the Paladins up 2-0. Aside from that, he ran the floor hard beating his man back on defense. He came out to set his high picks, he grabbed a rebound, and he flashed open on the block at least twice; where a simple lob pass from Adam Smith either time could have resulted in a clear-path dunk. Conclusion: I can buy that Coach Johnson wanted to see JVZ, but I wouldn't say one negative word about that three-minute stretch we got from Raines. Furthermore, if this was the problem, usually you'd see Johnson or another coach address Raines on the bench, and from what I could see for the next couple minutes they didn't even look at him.

Furman cut the lead to 48-39 in the second half, but back to back threes from Johnston put the Hokies back up 15 at the 8:32 mark, and after the timeout, Furman never re-gained any offensive flow. Once again the Hokies numbers at the free throw line didn't factor in too heavily as they just shot 7-of-10. Furman, for a 6'5" and under team, got to the line two extra times as Croone constantly probed and looked for offense where he could find it. He shot 10-of-11. Only one other Paladin shot a free throw. Once again, even with all of our depth in the front court our opponent matched us in points in the paint (26-24.) To get to the line the Hokies will need to play more physical, and ramp that aspect of the game up some, because the ACC is an entirely different animal, no shot comes easy.

Before we get to the player grades, here are some interesting numbers I put together:

  • In three different games, Adam Smith has put up an almost identical stat line. In games against VMI, Seton Hall and Furman he has put up 11/3/3, 11/3/1, 11/1/3. and in two other games 7/3/3 and 6/3/3. With the two games against WVU and Michigan St bringing his average up to 13.1 ppg which is almost identical to the 13.7 he averaged at UNC-Wilmington. Basically what I'm getting it is that you can expect his average performance to be 11 to 13 points with about three assists. He'll have a few great games and a few stinkers, but modally he appears very consistent.
  • VT is 97-of-123 from the free throw line (.789), which is very respectable. This of course doesn't include JVZ or Thompson. Those two cause for a seven percent drop down to .712.
  • In five of our games, including the losses to Seton Hall and USC--Upstate, the Hokies have not allowed the opponent to exceed 37.5% from the field. VMI made a late push to get to a still less than impressive 41.8%. Only the effort vs Michigan State could be described as bad, allowing 50.7%.
  • The 3-point FG % has been either sublime or atrocious, with only one average game. Considering True FG% which is just taking the 3-point % and multiplying it by 1.5 times to account for the 3rd point you achieve on a made three-point shot, the Hokies have allowed the following: Three games below  27.8% which is about 41% True, and then three games above 38.5%, which is about 57% to 58% True. The jury is still out folks, as to whether we will repeat the problems of past years in getting out to defend the arc.
  • The Hokies have had three separate games where they've allowed 20-for-56, 20-for-61, and 20-for-62 from the field (Furman, Seton Hall, Western Carolina). Trends are developing, nothing excites me more.
  • Devin Wilson needs 114 assists to set the freshman assist record, established at 113 in 2007-2008 by Hank Thorns. With 39 through his first 7 games, he would set the new mark in just 21 games. If he wanted to challenge the school record, set as a senior by Dave Sensibaugh in 1976, he would need 193. At his current production, he would be on pace right now for 165, which would make him 3rd all-time behind Sensibaugh (192) and Bimbo Coles (172 in 1987-1988).
  • Tonight featured the first two Hokie appearances in Club Trillion (a phrase coined by former Ohio State bench shooter, Mark Titus, who said it originated from his appearances off the bench in which the only column he'd fill in in the box score would be the minutes, with nothing but nine zeroes to follow): Christian Beyer had 2 minutes, and Greg Donlon got his 1 minute. Pop the bubbly!

Individual Player Grades. By minutes played (descending):

Jarrell Eddie (33 minutes): Just 6-of-15 from the floor. And was even worse at 3-of-11 (2-of-9) before finishing strong after the game was no longer in doubt. He did grab 10 rebounds. It was a sleepy night and he still performed fairly well. Would love to start seeing more 9-for-15s though. Tonight's Grade: B

Devin Wilson (31 minutes): Had the 11 assists, tying a "30" year-old record. That's huge. Didn't turn the ball over but once. Added six points and four rebounds, which is better than recently. His defense wasn't effective on Croone, but Smith was chasing him around too. Wilson likes the Cassell floor, and that's enough for me right now as we build him up for the ACC campaign. Tonight's Grade: A- (still need more aggression, better D)

Adam Smith (29 minutes): 11-1-3, couple of bad turnovers. Typical night for Smith. I'm at peace with it if this is his is his consistent level. Hope he finds a way to improve his game while he's at VT and doesn't get stuck like so many players, repeating bad habits and never adding to their games. Tonight's Grade: B

Will Johnston (26 minutes): Shot just six threes, and made four, including two back-breakers to dismantle Furman's comeback in the second half. Gave us five rebounds as well. His having gotten ACC run the past couple years is going to be of some benefit in short stretches. Luckily for Will, they didn't have a player that could get off offensively at the position he guards on defense, because that is his kryptonite. He can't defend D-I players for more than a couple minutes at a time, and even then it's hard to hide him. Tonight's Grade: A (he was a huge part of the win)

C.J. Barksdale (24 minutes): Another solid performance facing the basket, but again with an undersized opponent, that has to be taken with a grain of salt. This isn't Jabari Parker he was going against. With nine points and six rebounds that's perfectly solid. If a couple more shots had fallen (just 4-of-11) he would have had a fantastic game numbers-wise. It's been great to have him back. Tonight's Grade: B

Joey Van Zegeren (22 minutes): I'll put it politely and say that his footwork in the post remains a work in progress. He had 10 points, five rebounds, and three ugly turnovers. His defense in the paint altered some shots though he only got one block. He gave us energy, had three monster dunks, and mainly showed his good side. We have an improving player here, perhaps the most rapidly improving player on our team. Johnson wasn't wrong to look at him in a game like this, I just question him saying Raines wasn't doing HIS job, very puzzling. It has to be practice related. Tonight's Grade: A- (deduction for turnovers)

Marshall Wood (19 minutes): Last night I compared Marshall flouncing around on the floor to a 12-year old kid who is being forced to take a tennis lesson on a 90-degree summer afternoon. Where's his head been at? Well, Marshall showed that he can be a replacement "Microwave" as he gave us Emelogu-like production off the bench, shooting 4-of-8 from the three-point line, and finishing with 13 points in just 19 minutes. That compares favorably with Emelogu at 14.3 ppg in just over 22mpg. Wood hauled in four rebounds and blocked a shot in providing more energy than we've seen from him all year. Credit me for lighting the fire, folks. I'll set up a Paypal account later so you can show your gratitude!  Tonight's Grade: A

Trevor Thompson (10 minutes): He needs to be force-fed, and he needs to hold onto the ball. He's going through some adjustments as team's have watched tape on him. His slender base is getting pushed off of his favorite offensive spots, and he feels he has to do too much with it when he does have the ball. All it takes for him to get going is an easy dunk or layup, then he's in the flow, otherwise he's pretty much a wallflower. I'm impatient with our usage of him, not as much his performance. Tonight's Grade: D  (his empty minutes are still on him, 2 TOs, 1 PF, 1 block, 1 rebound, that's all to show for 10 minutes)

Cadarian Raines (3 minutes): Covered this in detail above. Tonight's Grade: Incomplete

Christian Beyer (2 minutes): Ordinarily I don't grade anyone with lower than 10 minutes (which I consider to be rotation minutes). But with Johnston stepping up, I wanted to remind everyone that Beyer averaged 9.5 rebounds per 32 minutes over 23 games over last season's miserable campaign. I think he's worthy of looks like Johnston gets, particularly if Coach Johnson is looking for someone to give us some scrappy physical minutes. Tonight's Grade: Passed

Coach Johnson: Did a nice job substituting tonight. Used his bench well. Didn't really face a worthy opponent. Still no half-court offense to speak of as the Hokies gunned up 30 shots from long distance, and just 29 two-point shots. We are still too content to shoot long distance, though we did convert 16 of the 29 two-point shots, so that's an improvement. Coach Johnson had this game under control all the way. Tonight's Grade: B+ (marked down for the BS Raines explanation)

Despite the lackluster attendance due to the game being scheduled during the Thanksgiving break, with lousy weather in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Hokies came out focused and did their job pretty well. The Hokies return to action on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., facing Radford University in the Cassell. The game will once again be streamed on ESPN3. You should be expecting another dreary crowd for that one, which will be hungover from Thanksgiving feasts, so the Hokies will need to provide their own spark as they did tonight.

I will be back with my usual pre-game report for Radford on Thanksgiving night. Until then have a Happy Thanksgiving with your friends and family, and be safe in your travels!

Mi Cassell es su Cassell.

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