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December 7, 2009

Hokies beat familiar foe in Big Ten/ACC Challenge to wrap up road trip

By: Jimmy Robertson

Terrell Bell and the Hokies opened the season with a 5-1 mark, including three victories on the road.

The road-weary Virginia Tech men’s basketball team wrapped up a season-long road trip in thrilling fashion by winning at one of the toughest venues for non-conference competition in the country.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena was built in 1983 and has been death for non-conference competition, as the Iowa Hawkeyes sported a 177-19 record at home against non-league competition in that span. But the Hokies used an 8-0 run in the final six minutes to help them pull out a 70-64 victory over the home-standing Hawkeyes in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

It marked Tech’s second victory in the Challenge – the Hokies knocked off Iowa 69-66 at Cassell Coliseum in 2006 – against three losses. More importantly, the win capped a six-day, four-game road trip in which the Hokies won three games and moved to 5-1 to start this season.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said on his postgame radio show. “We’ve played four games in a row on the road. We’ve been on the road for six days and it didn’t start the way we would have liked [with a loss to Temple]. This team was desperate for a win and we found a way to endure. It was a good team win. To win on the road against a Big Ten team is an accomplishment and it’s something we’re going to be proud of.”

An elated Greenberg loved how the Hokies battled back after getting off to a slow start. Tech trailed 8-1 from the onset, but rallied and took its first lead, 21-20, on a basket by Jeff Allen with 6:57 remaining in the half. The Hokies later went on a 17-2 run and led 34-28 at the break.

In the second half, they built a 10-point lead. But the Hawkeyes pecked away and Jarryd Cole’s nice spin move and basket gave Iowa a 54-53 lead with 6:22 remaining.

From that point on, though, it was all Tech, as the Hokies came up with key stops and big baskets.

Tech went on an 8-0 run at that point, capped by a Terrell Bell dunk with 4:53 left and a jumper with 4:12 remaining. Iowa cut the lead to four, 63-59, but Dorenzo Hudson drained a long 3-pointer with just a couple of ticks left on the shot clock to build the lead back to seven with 1:30 left and the Hawkeyes got no closer than four points the remainder of the game.

“We executed fairly well and we got some stops,” Greenberg said. “And we finally made one of those big shots that people make against us.”

Malcolm Delaney paced the Hokies with 18 points, while Anthony Tucker scored a game-high 24 for Iowa. But Tech’s role players were the key to this game. Bell added 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Victor Davila scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. Allen – who did not start – had 10 points and five boards as well and made a tremendous hustle play to get a loose ball, which led to Bell’s dunk in that 8-0 run.

“We’ve just got to continue getting better,” Greenberg said. “It’s a very simple formula. I told the guys before the game that the season is a journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We can’t get in the NCAA Tournament today. What we’re going to do is work to get better and that’s what we were able to do.”

Delaney helps Tech salvage one in Philly

The Hokies played two games in Philadelphia over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, dropping a 61-50 decision to Temple and knocking off Delaware 74-66 in overtime in the Philly Hoops Group Classic played at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

Delaney scored 24 points in the victory over the Blue Hens, hitting 6-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. He canned 9-of-12 from the free-throw line.

His performance marked the 16th time in his career he has scored at least 20 points in a game. Only three other active ACC players can top that.

Delaney scored a season-high 32 points in the loss to the Owls. That game marked the second-high scoring output of his career (37 vs. Clemson last January).

Delaney reaches 1,000-point milestone

In Tech’s 71-60 non-conference victory over Campbell, Delaney scored his 1,000th career point.

The junior from Baltimore reached the milestone when he drained a 3-pointer with 5:58 remaining in the game. He became the 40th player in Virginia Tech history to score at least 1,000 points in his career.

Interestingly, he became the 10th-fastest Hokie reach 1,000 points, doing so in his 72nd game. He is the fastest to reach the mark since Bimbo Coles reached it during the 1987-88 season in his 56th career game.

Delaney finished with 15 points, but hit just 3-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. He did connect on 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.

JT big off the bench against Campbell

The Hokies appeared to be on the ropes against the Camels, trailing with just under 11 minutes left in the game. But Tech got a huge performance from junior JT Thompson, who came off the bench to score 17 points and turned out to be the difference in the game.

With teammate Jeff Allen saddled with foul troubles and sitting on the pine, Thompson scored 11 of his 17 in the first half to keep the Hokies in the game. For the contest, he hit 8-of-12 from the floor, including his only 3-point attempt, and he also grabbed six rebounds (four on the offensive end).

“I just did what I usually do,” Thompson said. “It just seemed like I was a little bit more open.”

“He shot it confidently, he was active and he showed some toughness,” Greenberg said of Thompson.

It marked Thompson’s second-best scoring game as a Hokie. He registered a career-high 21 points in Tech’s double-overtime win over Duquesne at Cassell Coliseum last March.

Greenberg moves up list

Tech’s victory over Campbell marked coach Seth Greenberg’s 110th as the head coach of the Hokies, moving him into second place in men’s basketball coaching victories at Tech. Greenberg passed Chuck Noe, who was inducted posthumously into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in late November after winning 109 games in his seven-year tenure.

VT coach; Years; Record

Charlie Moir; 1976-87; 213-119

Seth Greenberg; 2003-current; 112-86

Chuck Noe; 1955-62; 109-51

Howie Shannon; 1964-71; 104-68

Bill Foster; 19991-97; 101-78

Scheduling methodology

Greenberg has tested the mettle of his team in the early going with a schedule that features quick turnarounds and a tournament-like format.

Tech opened the season on Nov. 15 against Brown at Cassell Coliseum and then played UNC Greensboro at home 48 hours later.

“The process of what you have to do to prepare for a game in 24 hours – that was the whole idea behind it,” Greenberg said after the UNC Greensboro game. “We’ve scheduled a series of games to simulate what we have to do in terms of the league. Neutral court games are important. Certain road games are important. And turnaround games are important.

“I knew this [the UNC Greensboro game] wouldn’t be easy. You’ve got one day to prepare for a different defense, but I wanted to see how much our guys could assimilate in a short period of time.”

Then, following the road game at Campbell on Nov. 23, the Hokies traveled to Philadelphia and played back-to-back games against Temple and Delaware in the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra.

“Why are we going to Philadelphia?” Greenberg said. “We’re going to Philadelphia because we needed a tournament that played back-to-back games like you have to do in the ACC tournament.”

Tech opened the season 5-1 against that schedule.