In a way, it was like fishing at Claytor Lake.
Each time visiting Appalachian State seemed to have an advantage, Virginia Tech reeled the Mountaineers back in.
With senior guard Erick Green manning the rod and reel, the Hokies had just enough to outlast Appalachian State. Green scored 27 points as Virginia Tech held on for a 87-76 win Friday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum and are now 5-0 for the first time since 1984.
It's an accomplishment, but it wasn't easy from the beginning. And coach James Johnson said it'll only get tougher as competition ramps up.
"Not one time did the guys look like we were in trouble," he said. "All night long, they felt like they were gonna win the game. I saw it in their eyes and we can take it and play through it. It wasn't one of our best games that we played, but we found a way to win and that's a tribute to this team and how hard these guys work and how much they've grown up."
Junior forward Jarell Eddie was nearly as lethal as Green, finishing with 23 points. He also connected on his ninth consecutive three-pointer, hitting his first four attempts today after making all five in a win Monday at UNC-Greensboro. He finished 4-5 on three-pointers for the day.
"(Green and I) are the veterans of the team, we're the older guys and we've just gotta step up," Eddie said. "We've gotta be able to set an example on how to play, how to play hard and aggressive for the younger guys and that's what we're trying to do."
The back and forth play began at the game's tip. After a layup by sophomore guard Robert Brown, Appalachian State used a 9-2 run to retake the lead. The Hokies took the lead back on a layup by freshman forward Marshall Wood at 16-15, but the Mountaineers remained well in the game.
Virginia Tech led 34-26 after a layup by sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale with six minutes left in the first half. Appalachian State responded with an 8-0 run capped by a three-pointer from sophomore guard Tab Hamilton with 3:17 left in the half. The Hokies still maintained an edge and took a 41-38 lead into halftime.
"Tonight, we made a little bit of an adjustment," Johnson said. "We went to trapping the ball screens a little bit, which bothered them a little bit and that helped us out."
Jumpers by Barksdale and Green to open the second half put Virginia Tech up 45-38 and prompted a Mountaineers timeout, but the visitors kept pace. Appalachian State tied the score at 50 with 14:57 left, but the Hokies pushed ahead and really seized the momentum on an intentional foul by Mountaineers senior forward Nathan Healy with 6:44 left as sophomore guard Marquis Rankin went for a layup after a steal at mid-court.
Rankin missed both free throws and Barksdale missed a hook in the paint, but Appalachian State never mounted a serious charge afterward.
Green delivered a big blow as he pickpocketed Hamilton at mid-court and coasted to the basket for a slam dunk and a 73-60 lead with 4:52 remaining.
Wood also added 13 points off the bench for Virginia Tech, while Barksdale had 10.
Johnson continues his hot start as coach, but the real challenge begins now that tougher teams are on the way.
"It's not a pat on the back for me," Johnson said. "It's a tribute to these kids. From day one, they bought into what I've been trying to do and what we've been working on. They've been working hard and they've been ready to play every game."
The Hokies return to Cassell Coliseum Tuesday night at 7:15 as they host Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.