After Radford's Ya Ya Anderson's three-point shot rattled home to tie the score at five apiece early Friday afternoon, it appeared the Virginia Tech Hokies basketball team was suffering a bit of a holiday hangover. Some of the sluggishness that was pervasive in Monday night's win against Furman seemed to be carrying over into this early matinee against the Highlanders; the first match-up between the schools since an 80-50 Hokie win in 2005. However, after a few sharp words from Coach Johnson, the Hokies went on an 18-0 run over the next four minutes that swelled the lead to 23-5. Adam Smith, Jarrell Eddie, Devin Wilson, and Marshall Wood all scored five points apiece in amassing the lead.
In improving their record to 5-3, the Hokies rode that early wave of success to a 48-28 halftime lead, led by Adam Smith's 17 first-half points. Smith eventually finished with 26 points on the way to the Hokies' 81-56 victory, and looked quite competent with the ball against the smaller, quicker back court of the Highlanders. Devin Wilson didn't follow-up his career-high 11 assists against Furman with a very good game. He also looked intimidated by the full-court pressure Radford brought later on in the game. Smith actually had more assists than Wilson in the game (5 to 3).
Jarrell Eddie had his third consecutive double-double (13 points/10 rebounds), and CJ Barksdale (14 points/10 rebounds) had his first of the season. I am working now to see about finding out the last time the Hokies had two players with double-doubles in one game, and to see the last time we had a Hokie get three consecutive double-doubles.
In the Cadarian Raines saga, the fifth year senior didn't see the floor at all. He didn't take off his warm-up jacket all day. There is something larger at play here than poor practice habits. Coach Johnson alluded to a lack of energy in his post-game quotes after Furman on Monday night, and now is talking about Raines being out-performed in practice by the younger players (Joey Van Zegeren and Trevor Thompson). I cannot dispute that which i cannot witness for myself; but I can see that in the games that Raines is performing at least as well as JVZ and Thompson. We will need Raines for the ACC season, and we will need to lean on him heavily, as ACC officiating will have JVZ in foul trouble in under five minutes; and Thompson can't score unless he's handed the ball with space to gather and dunk. Both of those young players are oozing with promise, but they won't be ready for the ACC, which is upon us this Sunday with a trip to Miami.
The game against Radford was made easier by their coach Mike Jones' schizophrenic substitution patterns. He only played Javonte Green,his best front court player, for 19 minutes. Green managed to get extremely close to his regular production, but the coach would send in whole-sale substitutions that killed any momentum the Highlanders got. He even did this when Radford wasn't pressing. It was very confusing to watch. Radford is still short four or five players it will need to be competitive in the Big South. Besides Javonte Green and his 15 points, the only other scorer for Radford in double-figures was RJ Price, and it took him 16 shots and 10 three-point attempts to get to 13 points. We'll take that all day every day as a defense.
Here are some quick notes before i get to the individual game grades, which will include their first quarter grade as well:
- This was the third straight game the Hokies limited their opponent to exactly 20 field goal conversions, and the fourth time this season. The Hokies lost just one of these games: Seton Hall.
- This was the sixth time in eight games that the Hokies held the opponent to under 36% field goals.
- This was the fourth game in which we permitted less than five three-point field goals.
- The Hokies 15 three-point attempts were the least they had attempted since the Western Carolina game (just 13). The Hokies kept in line with their usual accuracy marks, sinking seven. Had Barksdale not taken his, the Hokies would've been at 50%. That shot is not part of his repertoire.
- Turnovers and steals were at 11 each, and four each. Neither team gained a significant advantage. Yet the Hokies had an 18-6 advantage in points scored off turnovers. Good job on our transition defense.
- The Radford press trimmed a 55-32 Hokie lead to a 62-48 lead in five minutes of the second half. Wilson ceded ball-control duties after three of his turnovers occurred during that swing.
- Defensively: Radford was shooting 48% coming in, and wound up at 34.5%. They were shooting 39% from distance, and wound up at 18%. Great job extending ourselves and using our length to alter the already difficult Cassell Coliseum sight lines.
- The bench was cleared once again, paving the way for Christian Beyer to get his second Club Trillion chip, and for Greg Donlon to get his first FG of the season! Congratulations to Greg as the whole team has now scored, and we have that monkey off of the back. Glad to see some pay-off for a couple guys who do the backbreaking dirty work of helping make our front-line guys better.
Individual Player Grades for both the Radford game and the season. By minutes played (descending):
Adam Smith (36): 26 points against Radford, and another explosive first half of basketball. He is as advertised. But it appears that as he grows more comfortable with the situation and his teammates that he is going to be a force in the ACC part of the season. In spite of Wilson's ability to run the point as maturely as he has, this offense will only kick into another gear when Wilson is running it. Not only that but he was the only option at our disposal who could competently manage Radford's short guy press. Really, three of us off the street should have been able to look over that thing, but for some reason Wilson got the jitters. Smith calmed it down, righted the ship, and showed me why he needs to run the PG spot more and run Emelogu and Eddie on the wings. It's our best scoring lineup for sure; and as we get faced with tougher half-court defensive sets we need more assertive play from the ball-handler. If there is one thing Smith doesn't lack it's for confidence. He's had a great few games here, but his challenge will be to control his inner-Iverson, and make sure to keep his teammates involved while he's flurrying. Radford Grade: A Season Grade: B+ (trending upwards)
Jarrell Eddie (34): Once again about 30% on non-three point shots. Just 23-of-61 from two points on the year, while he's 23-of-50 from behind the arc. The third straight double double is so pleasing. He really has a nose for the defensive rebounds. What will be critical is knowing in ACC play when to dive in for offensive rebounds, and when to be safe and get back on defense. It'll be interesting to see what rules Johnson has in place for him as the 3rd man back on defense. A lot of coaches forgo the offensive rebound. Eddie has been a better leader than I'd have given him credit for. He's making the most of his senior year, and that's always a pleasure to see. We'll need him to step it up just a little bit more for ACC play though. Radford Grade: A- Season Grade: A-
CJ Barksdale (26): First Double-Double against Radford. Now let's see about seven or eight more of those this year. That's where I'm setting his over/under at. He can do it. Missing the first three games hurt his first quarter mark, I won't lie. Having him there for the first game against USC-Upstate probably helps us avoid the loss, my calling for Jim Weaver's resignation, and then Jim Weaver's resignation the Monday immediately following my request for Jim Weaver's resignation. See what you did CJ? Anyhow, he's been nothing short of the improved player many of us thought he would be going into his junior year. CJ is going to be trouble for a lot of these ACC schools this winter, he only needs to continue to focus on what he can do in his scoring areas. He has shown an adventurous streak this year, straying a little too far out with his jumper. Save that for this off-season's workouts. To me, there is one more area for improvement: I'd like to see him use one more foul a game. He's averaging about 1.6 per game right now. We aren't bereft of depth anymore. We can afford the extra physicality. Radford Grade: A Season Grade: C+ (based on play alone I have B+, but he turned his paper in a few days late)
Devin Wilson (26): Up and down, and that's to be expected. He had a decent start to the game vs. Radford. But it went steadily downhill. He got into a little bit of foul trouble, he turned the ball over. He stopped driving the lane.
And then he looked completely out of place trying to manage the Radford "Mini-Havoc" press. He got called off the ball by Johnson for that. We won't see too many pressing teams in the ACC, but we may see a bit more of it now. I will say this: I don't like the Press-O set-up that calls for too much distance between the in-bounds recipient and the two 90 degree guys that set up at the half-court corners. Those two guys need to come way closer to the ball way sooner. Additionally the in-bounds man needs to not be running the third man (the inbound defender) past the ball handler. We were making critical mental errors and allowed the lead to be cut by nine points in five minutes.
Wilson is going to be a good one. He will be the focus of too much blame in this spot, but keep in mind we have no veterans in front of him, so everything here will be a qualified statement. He has a ton of rope in my book. I just hope that Johnson isn't hesitant to make changes if things aren't working (meaning Smith to the point and Wilson coming off the bench). Radford Grade: C Season Grade: B
Marshall Wood (24): Here comes Marshall! I guess somebody brought out the smelling salts? Or is it just a temperature thing, Wood heats up as the weather turns? Wood followed up his excellent work against Furman (13 and 4) with a 10 point and six rebound effort against Radford. I've said it here before, Marshall Wood with just a slight kick in the rear, could be one of the ACC's most versatile players. I'll be crazy enough to say this also: When we go to Cameron Indoor and have to face Jabari Parker, Marshall is the guy i want on him. Marshall's long limbs and versatility will allow for him to shadow Parker from the hash marks in. I am not expecting miracles, I'm just saying we have one of the few guys who can maybe match-up and hold Parker down to his averages. Wood has found some of the accuracy on his long-range jumper after a poor start. And though i speak of motivation and body language with Wood, it is a fact that he rebounds well per minute. His averages of six points and five rebounds will increase as the season goes on. And hopefully we can take a few minutes from Eddie and Wilson and pass them on to Wood and Emelogu. Radford Grade: A- Season Grade: C (trending way up)
Will Johnston (22): Not going to waste time here. Will does what Will is supposed to do most of the time. His minutes against Radford were empty, just four points and little else. His defense has improved, but he's still going to be at a disadvantage two times out of three athletically. He's better off the bench in small doses, and we are in hopes that Ben Emelogu returns quickly and reduces Johnston's role some. Radford Grade: C Season Grade: B (that Furman performance was key)
Joey Van Zegeren (16): Started in place of Raines, didn't do one thing offensively, but was a tremendous presence nonetheless. I don't disagree with experimenting with JVZ in the starting lineup, but the young man only knows one speed, and that speed is: It's a race to FOUL OUT! He will serve us better off the bench where it doesn't matter how he uses his fouls. He had 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. On a starter's diet of minutes, that's 12 rebounds and six blocks a game, that's Alonzo Mourning territory! Yet, if JVZ ever plays 32 minutes in a game it'll be because someone put him in the Hannibal Lecter dolly and he can't touch anyone. Great effort, great improvement this season, but Cadarian Raines needs his job back. Radford Grade: B+ (no FG attempts) Season Grade: A- (when you consider what his real job is: energy, he's acing it)
Trevor Thompson (13): Sadly Trevor isn't ready for the Penthouse Penthouse. He's ready to contribute minutes anytime we want to try using him the way he needs to be used. If we suffer an injury, I firmly believe Trevor would be ready to play key minutes. He can't make free throws but that doesn't make him all that different from all the other young big men out there. With our offense, and trouble initiating it, Trevor is reduced to a wallflower who runs the floor really well for a big man. We call no plays for the post as it is, and we're especially not calling these plays for a freshman who can't carve out a pin-down if his life depended on it. He will add weight and make a run at All-ACC by his junior season, if he doesn't get ticked at our perimeter gunning by then. His season has been up and down, and as the season goes longer. I expect the 14 minutes he gets to be reduced by half. I expect more minutes for Wood and Johnston, with Emelogu laying claim to a couple from the forward and guard pools as well. It saddens me, because I'd like to see Thompson almost as much as JVZ, but it appears that Johnson values the experience a little more at this point. Radford Grade: D+ (didn't do anything in 13 minutes) Season Grade: C (I had this at an A just two weeks ago)
Ben Emelogu (22.3 mpg): Season Grade: A ... No better Hokie debut i can remember, not even Malcolm Delaney. Many hopes for a rapid, healthy return.
Cadarian Raines (16.7 mpg): Season Grade: D+ ....It's his job to make the coach happy. As a redshirt senior he should know what that takes. Hopefully this doesn't turn into a full-season vendetta and he gets his minutes back up. JVZ isn't going to hold up the post in the ACC. We need 20 competent fouls to give in the post to win some of those wars.
Sorry for the delay in getting this up. I should be back on schedule as everyone settles back in after the Thanksgiving break. And now that there is no meaningful football, we should all now be turning our complete and total focus towards the basketball program, both men's and women's!
The next VT game is at home against the Winthrop Eagles, another Big South team. The game is scheduled to tip at 7pm, and will once again be covered by ESPN3. I'll be back with a pregame write-up on that, which will hopefully appear by mid-morning tomorrow. Stay tuned on Twitter @GobblerCountry for updates on Hokie basketball.
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