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December 15, 2012

Hokies Fall To Ga Southern 78-73

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For whatever reason, Virginia Tech was in a giving mood. Or maybe it was looking forward to Las Vegas and the holidays.

Either way, the Hokies never could get moving as a team, with a potential NCAA Tournament resume killer in a 78-73 loss to Georgia Southern Saturday afternoon. This despite a career-high 28 points from senior point guard Erick Green.

That didn't make this bitter pill of a loss any easier for Green to swallow.

"It hurts, but when you don't play 40 minutes of basketball, that's what happens," Green said. "We came out flat first half, they took the lead, we never got it back, turned the ball over and not hitting shots. When you play like that, Georgia Southern is a good team and they beat us."

Today's win is Georgia Southern's first over a power conference team since 1992.

The Eagles (4-5) looked like a good team in Cassell Coliseum, but before today, they looked like a bottom of the road team. Georgia Southern's lone win over a Division I opponent was at Kennesaw State, with losses to Elon and Samford.

"It's just one of those nights," coach James Johnson said. "I don't know if I feared for that that we would have one or not. We were shooting the basketball so well. I was just fearful that one of those nights was gonna come at some point. When that happens, you've gotta be strong on the defensive end of the floor. It happens tonight that those guys made shot, 42 percent from three. I thought we were there. A lot of those shots were contested, they just made shots."

Neither team looked especially good in the first half, though the Eagles got out quicker, scoring the game's first eight points. Virginia Tech got back into the game, though it took a while.

The Hokies got back within two a couple of times, but couldn't retake the lead. Maybe their best chance was a missed three-pointer by junior Jarell Eddie, which the Eagles turned into a three of their own on the other end for a 30-25 lead.

The hero had to be Green, though he even struggled early. Holding for the final shot of the first half, Green had the ball stolen in the final seconds and Georgia Southern hit a pair of free throws after being fouled to take a 35-27 lead into halftime. The Hokies shot just 29 percent in the opening frame.

"We just weren't hitting shots," Green said. "We had wide open looks. You saw how many looks we had. Jarell had so many looks, Rob had so many looks, I had some good looks, they just didn't fall. Nights like that happen."

Unfortunately, the Eagles came out firing to start the second half as well and pushed their lead to 42-27 after a three-pointer and layup. Green got going somewhat with a pair of jumpers and had some help from sophomore guard Marquis Rankin, who hit a three-pointer and got a steal and layup.

Virginia Tech would chip away and cut the deficit to 49-43 on a layup by sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale with 14:09 to play, but Georgia Southern continued to have answers. The Eagles responded with an 8-0 run to get back to a commanding 57-43 lead with 10:48 to play.

The lead for Georgia Southern was at 67-53 with 5:06 to play after another three-pointer, before the Hokies got back to within 67-58 with 4:11 left. Virginia Tech got some help, like a dribble off the Eagles' shoe and out of bounds that led to a layup by Green.

Eddie, who'd missed a number of three-pointers throughout the day, nailed a big one with 2:12 to play to cut the deficit to 70-63. A Barksdale putback, a layup and free throw by Green made the score 73-68, before Eddie drilled a three-pointer with 54.3 seconds left to make the score 74-71.

But Green missed a three-pointer, the Eagles continued to make their free throws and Virginia Tech missed its few last chances to snuff any chance at a rally.

"Coach told me to shoot a three, so I shot the three," Green said. "I thought honestly it was in. It's just a lesson learned. Next time, go to the basket."

It's a few lessons learned for the Hokies, who were on the cusp of the top 25 polls before a 68-67 loss at West Virginia. But it's tough for anyone to win shooting 39.7 percent from the game, but hitting just 6-27 shots from the three-point line as Virginia Tech did today.

"I don't know if it's one particular area, I think we have to continue getting better as a team overall," Johnson said. "We've gotta have individual guys step up and play better, we've gotta do a better job of rebounding the basketball. We've gotta continue to get a post presence where we can throw the ball inside some. Defensively, we've gotta do a better job containing the ball and being there and contesting shots. We've just gotta get better overall."

Virginia Tech travels to Las Vegas to face Bradley Saturday in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.

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