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December 28, 2013

Sluggish VT Falls To UNCG 55-52

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Maybe Virginia Tech was still full from a Christmas feast. Whatever it was, the Hokies started out sloppy and a bit discombobulated at times.

In the second half, Virginia Tech rebounded to take a comfortable lead, but went cold shooting and fell apart late. A poor use of timeouts and missed shots led to a 55-52 win for visiting North Carolina-Greensboro. After leading 43-32 with 10:06 to play, the Hokies were outscored 23-9 to end the game.

Sophomore forward Marshall Wood led Virginia Tech with 14 points, despite shooting just 4 of 13 from the field. Of course, he and his teammates shot just 36 percent for the game and made 13 of 23 free throws. Wood's desperation three-pointer fell short at the final buzzer.

"We had the ball in Jarell Eddie's hands, a senior who's been the ACC player of the week," coach James Johnson said. "What are you gonna do? He turned the basketball over. Then, you come down, Devin Wilson drove the basketball to the hole, made a play on the free throw line, missed a free throw.

"I don't think we're gonna be able to beat anybody scoring 52 points."

The Hokies had the first basket of the game, a three-pointer by Wood, but that came after back to back turnovers on their first two possessions. UNCG, which was routed at home just a few weeks ago to Presbyterian, took advantage and ran out to a 10-4 lead.

Virginia Tech came back, thanks in large part by a three-pointer and jumper by freshman forward Ben Emelogu, to retake the lead, at 14-10 with 9:25 left in the first half. The Spartans responded with a 10-2 run of their own to take a 20-16 lead with 3:41 left in the half and forced a Hokies timeout.

Throughout the first half, Virginia Tech's lack of good guard play showed, as UNCG was able to push the ball and get to the basket. To make matters worse, the Hokies couldn't grab an offensive rebound. They snared their first of the half, on a putback by sophomore forward Joey Van Zegeren with 3:08 left.

The teams went to halftime tied at 22, as senior forward Jarell Eddie shot 0-7 from the floor. At UNCG a year ago, he had 28 points. Each team had 17 first half rebounds, one only one of Virginia Tech's came offensively.

The Spartans scored just 13 seconds into the second half on a layup, before the Hokies got going. A Wood three and Emelogu layup gave the home team a 27-24 advantage.

But the roar of the crowd came a few minutes later. Freshman forward Trevor Thompson threw down an alley-oop dunk off a lob from freshman guard Devin Wilson to the crowd's delight, before a layup by Wood gave Virginia Tech its largest lead of the game at 36-28. The latter drew a UNCG timeout with 13:14 to play.

Eddie even got into the flow as well. His steal and layup with 12:42 to go capped an 8-0 Hokies run and ran the lead to 38-28.

The pace picked up considerably from the first half, but both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket. Virginia Tech held on to a lead that never reached double-figures, but the Spartans cut the deficit to 47-46 with 2:30 to go.

UNCG then forced a turnover by Eddie and immediately called timeout with 1:40 to go. The Spartans then took the lead at 50-49 with 1:23 to go on a nifty layup. The lead grew to 52-49 with 34 seconds left on another layup.

"They just went down low and their guys were able to score down low," Eddie said. "We weren't able to get the ball in the hole and we weren't getting stops. It's just tough to lose a game like that."

Wilson drove the lane and hit a layup to cut the deficit to 53-52, but was well short on the ensuing free throw attempt. At the other end, UNCG hit a pair of free throws and on the ensuing possession, Wood's three-point attempt to tie was off the mark.

"If he's open like that, shoot the next one," Johnson said of his message to Wood. "That shot wasn't the game. Obviously, it was the last shot and would have put the game into overtime, but it was way before that. He's gotta shoot the next one. When he's open, take it again.

It's another disappointing finish for the Hokies, who host Maryland-Eastern Shore at 4 pm Tuesday. The real season starts after that, though. Virginia Tech begins ACC play Jan. 7 when it hosts Syracuse, ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.

"We've just gotta go to practice tomorrow and come ready to work, come ready to get better," Eddie said. "That's what we need to do right now and that's what our mindset needs to be right now, getting better. We haven't played our best games these last couple of games, so we've just gotta continue to get better and continue to work."







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