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February 13, 2014

Can VT Just Get A Win?

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It's not an excuse for a 10-game losing streak, but for weeks, Virginia Tech coach James Johnson has talked about fatigue effecting the Hokies. It's showed in games where players have looked sluggish in the second half.

Johnson has taken a few different approaches, especially with sophomore forward Marshall Wood coming off the flu and junior guard Adam Smith still sidelined with a strained calf. Freshman guard Ben Emelogu and junior forward C.J. Barksdale have also been continuously hampered by injuries.

Still, Virginia Tech can take some solace in forcing Pittsburgh, No. 25 in the AP poll, to double overtime before losing on Saturday. But it still didn't get the Hokies what they desperately need, a win, with a rematch coming Saturday at home against Miami.

"This team has kept their confidence, they kept playing hard, they kept fighting and we went into the game confident," Johnson said. "I talk to the guys all the time about, we're not just practicing and working hard, just to be close in games. We wanna get better. That's the goal, get better every day in practice and in games, but we wanna win. We're preparing to win and that was a winnable game and we had that game, where we were in a position to win that game and we needed to find a way to win it. The way we lost the (Pitt) game, our confidence was shook a little bit."

Johnson has tried lessening the amount of time Virginia Tech even spends on the practice floor during the week. It's helped, but the Hokies still aren't healthy.

"We've done it by not practicing at all, two days before the Pitt game," Johnson said. "The day before the Pitt game, we went very light, no contact. Part of playing a zone is you don't have to walk through all that man and defend all their man-to-man sets. This week, even though we've got a lot of things we need to get better at, we just can't do it."

Virginia Tech's 61-60 overtime win at Miami in December remains the Hokies' lone ACC win on the season. And that could help their motivation for Saturday, but the fact remains, wins are still what eludes Virginia Tech.

"We're gonna have to get the ball inside a little more than we did down there," Johnson said. "Even though we hit 12 threes, I don't wanna settle for the three-point shot. I wanna get it inside more, whether that be attacking with dribble-drive or throwing it inside to the post guys."

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