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December 10, 2012

VT Slogs Past MVSU 70-49

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Maybe it was due to playing a tough game at West Virginia Saturday.

Whatever it was, Virginia Tech got off to a sloppy start. Luckily, Mississippi Valley State was sloppier.

The Hokies didn't look pretty, but slogged their way over Mississippi Valley State 70-49 in the opening game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. Senior guard Erick Green led all scorers with 23 points, giving him at least 20 points in every game this season.

"I think we had a little bit of a hang over," coach James Johnson said. "Around campus, everybody's talking about the last game. All our guys are hearing it. They were with me two hours yesterday and I'm talking about the next game and Mississippi Valley State. Everyone else around campus and in town, everybody's talking about the last game and it's hard for these young men."

Virginia Tech got out to a 12-4 lead at the 11:56 media timeout, but the winless Delta Devils quickly climbed back after three straight three-pointers by junior guard Davon Usher. The Hokies briefly fell behind at 22-20 after an MVSU fast break dunk, but used a 10-0 run to retake the lead at 30-22 with 2:10 to play after a layup by Green.

Virginia Tech couldn't get a handle on a few consecutive trips down the floor and went into halftime with a 30-24 lead.

"Coming into halftime, we all woke up," Green said. "We got into each other and Coach didn't really have to get into us. He said his words, but me and Jarell (Eddie) as leaders, we said what we had to say and we came out the second half and picked it up."

Thanks to an 8-2 run to start the second half, the Hokies finally got a little breathing room with a 38-26 lead that forced a Delta Devils timeout. Green already had 17 points at the timeout and though he was a bit sloppy himself, still showed why he's a potential NBA draft pick with a deft shooting touch from close range.

The lead for Virginia Tech went up to 51-30 with 10:35 to play after a layup by sophomore guard Marquis Rankin and free throw after he was fouled. The Hokies went up 53-30.

Having a comfortable lead allowed Virginia Tech to rest a number of its starters. Green and sophomore guard Robert Brown both spent large amounts of time on the bench. When Green got back on the floor, with under seven minutes to play, he nailed a mid-range jumper that gave him 21 points. He also added a layup on the ensuing possession.

"It was a little sweet talk (at halftime)," Johnson said about the difference in the second half. "Our guys, they know the deal. I don't have to do a whole lot with this group. We looked at the stat sheet and told them, 'here's where we're at guys. We've gotta do a better job with this.'"

Green looked a bit sluggish himself early on. But he said a few words at halftime to remind his teammates that they're capable of playing better and also to remind them to forget about the pain of the Hokies' heartbreaking loss Saturday to the Mountaineers.

"It's just the energy, man," Green said. "Pick it up. We're playing ball and this is supposed to be fun. For me, this is my last year, so I wanna take advantage of every game I got, so I'm gonna go out and play hard. I was telling these guys, just take advantage of it, because you never know when it can be taken away.

Virginia Tech is back home at 2 p.m. Monday when it hosts Georgia Southern in the second game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.

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