Hot-shooting USC Upstate had a seven-point lead about three-quarters of the way through the first half, but defensive adjustments by Virginia Tech paved the way to a 64-53 win.
The Hokies scored the first seven points of Thursday afternoon's game and looked to be on their way to an easy victory. However, Upstate went into a 2-3 zone and caught fire from behind the arc to go on a 10-0 run and take the lead. The Hokies' struggles with the Spartans' zone continued through much of the half and Upstate took advantage to take a 23-16 lead with 6:24 to go in the game.
It was around that time the Hokies' 1-3-1 halfcourt trap started to torment Upstate. The Hokies forced seven turnovers after that initial seven-point lead by Upstate and had eight fast-break points to help take a 34-29 halftime lead.
After the half, Tech quickly extended its lead to eight points and spent most of the half alternating between a nine- and 11-point lead.
the reason the game was so close was Tech's insistence on forcing threes against Upstate. The Hokies were 2-for-14 from behind the arc in the game and in the first half the Spartans made 42 percent of their threes to take that early lead and keep it close at half.
Upstate cooled off in the second half and ended the game at 8-for-21 from three. What saved Tech was its halfcourt trap, which confounded a young Upstate team that has six freshmen. When the Spartans' guards were trapped at the top of the halfcourt you didn't see a lot of guys going up to help. Upstate frequently threw bounce passes into corners, playing right into the Hokies' trap.
Erick Green had a great game for the Hokies, playing the head of the 1-3-1 trap and helping them force 18 turnovers in the game. He finished with 12 points and also had three assists and no turnovers.
In the second half, Tech finally attacked Upstate's zone with entry passes to the post and Jeff Allen finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Tech only out-rebounded Upstate 32-30, but a lot of that can be contributed to both teams playing a lot of zone, which leads to even rebounding numbers.
What worries me is that we're just not a very good jump shooting team. Malcolm Delaney is probably our only good jump shooter on the team now that Hudson is out and he's very streaky. Against Upstate he was 1-for-5 from behind the arc and 6-for-13 overall. I think we're going to see a lot of teams play zone against us because of this, which is going to put pressure on us to find a second jump shooting threat and on Allen and Victor Davila to perform well on the offensive glass.
Up next for the Hokies is Mt. St. Mary's Sunday at 2 p.m. EST in Cassell Coliseum.