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March 16, 2010

Witcher makes the most of Senior Night

By: Jimmy Robertson

Lewis Witcher played his best game of the season, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds against N.C. State on Senior Night.

Lewis Witcher knew that he would be getting the start on Senior Night at Cassell Coliseum.

But he probably did not expect to play substantial minutes.

The nicest guy on Tech’s men’s basketball team went out in style, though, playing a season-high 21 minutes, and more importantly, playing a major role in Tech’s 71-59 victory over N.C. State on March 3.

“It was a great Senior Night for me,” Witcher said.

Witcher, who grew up in Franklin County – a little over an hour’s drive from Blacksburg – scored four points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out an assist. His four points came on offensive stick-backs in the second half.

He came into the game having scored just 12 points all season.

“What a great Senior Night!” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “He was active, he was alert and he was engaged. That’s the way you want your Senior Night to go and it couldn’t happen to a better person because he’s as a good a person as I’ll ever get to coach. He was alive today.”

Witcher’s main contributions came on the defensive end. Tasked with guarding N.C. State’s leading scorer, Tracy Smith, Witcher held him in check for the most part. Smith scored just 12 points – he came into the game averaging 17 – and hit just 4-for-11 from the floor.

“You basically try to get in front of him, because once you get in front of him, he’s going to try to maneuver and get off the block,” Witcher said. “You definitely try to defend the post early.”

Witcher saw extended minutes because Victor Davila sat a majority of the game in foul trouble and because freshman big man Cadarian Raines did not play (shoulder injury). But given the way Witcher was playing during the game, he wouldn’t have been taken out anyway.

“He was playing well,” Greenberg admitted. “He was doing a great job defensively and Victor was in foul trouble. I really wanted to see if I could rest Raines a couple of more days. We thought we were going to need Raines’ big body against Tracy, but Lewis was playing well and he needed to be rewarded.

“I’m big on, if you produce, you play. He was producing. So we were going to play him.”

The win marked the 84th enjoyed by Witcher in his four-year career. Witcher signed with Tech along with Nigel Munson and Jeff Allen, but Munson left after his freshman season and Allen decided to enroll at Hargrave for a year before coming to Tech. The last senior class to win that many games was the 1986 senior class, a group that won 87 games and played in four postseason tournaments (two NCAAs and two NITs).

“He’s going to have a lasting memory of this game tonight,” Greenberg said. “His career might not have been everything he wanted it to be, but he’s going to remember tonight.

“He’s part of a team, and probably the first guy in a long time, to go to postseason play four consecutive years. That’s pretty good. He’s won now his 84th game in a Virginia Tech uniform. That’s a pretty good accomplishment, and he’s been a big part of it.

“We got everything when we recruited Lewis. We got an unbelievable young person, a great ambassador for our program, and a guy who’s helped us beat some very good teams.”

Hudson guts it out

In addition to Witcher’s performance, the Hokies also got a great – and gritty – performance from Dorenzo Hudson, who was a game-time decision. Hudson injured his right foot against Florida State, and the pain remains so severe that the coaching staff and doctors contemplated sitting him out.

But Hudson wanted to play – and did so quite well. He scored 21 points, going 7-for-14 from the floor and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line.

“I felt like I had to play through the pain,” Hudson said. “I injured it against Florida State and then re-injured it against Virginia and then did it again against Maryland. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now. I’m probably about 60 percent, but I got it done.”

Hudson has been fantastic for Tech this season, and particularly down the stretch. Heading into a game at Georgia Tech, he had scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games and averaged 17.3 points per game in that span.

Allen solid down the stretch

Speaking of playing well down the stretch, Jeff Allen quietly has been very good. He’s been plagued by foul trouble this season, but he scored in double figures in eight of 10 games heading into the regular-season finale at Georgia Tech, including a 25-point, 15-rebound game against Maryland and an 18-point, nine-rebound game against N.C. State.

Greenberg recently decided to sit Allen after he picked up his first foul. He puts Allen back into the game a few minutes later, and that strategy appears to be working.

“Once he picks one up, I just sit him for two or three minutes and let him take a deep breath and then get him back in,” Greenberg said. “I encourage him and tell him I’m going to stick with him, just so he doesn’t get frustrated. It’s human nature. When you pick up one, the other team is going to come right at you. If you take the guy out and bring him back in, they’re not going to come right back at him.

“He’s been great. He’s playing well. He’s become a really good teammate. He’s enjoying playing. It’s been fun to watch.”

Allen tied his career high by playing 44 minutes in the Hokies’ 104-100 double-overtime loss to Maryland on Feb. 27. He recorded season highs in points (25) and rebounds (15) for his sixth double-double of the season and the 25th of his career. Only Clemson’s Trevor Booker has more career double-doubles (32) among active ACC players.

Allen went 10-for-23 from the floor. His 23 attempts marked a career high, surpassing the previous high of 19 set against North Carolina last season.

Delaney leads Tech to key victory over Wake

The Hokies shot 51.6 percent from the floor in the second half and rallied from 11 points down with less than 12 minutes to go to knock off Wake Forest 87-83 at Cassell Coliseum on Feb. 16.

The win marked their fifth straight – something they had not done since joining the ACC.

A 20-8 run late in the second half got the Hokies back in the game. Wake led 74-73, but a Malcolm Delaney lay-up with 3:41 remaining gave the Hokies the lead for good. Delaney drained a big 3-pointer 41 seconds later and JT Thompson’s two free throws with 2:35 to go capped a 7-0 Tech run that gave Tech an 80-74 lead.

“It’s all about the players,” Greenberg said. “They’re just so resilient and tough-minded. When we get down, they don’t chase shots. They continue to execute. They understand how to get back in a game. That’s really important.”

Delaney paced Tech with a game-high 31 points – his fourth performance of at least 30 points in a game this season. He now has more than 1,500 career points, becoming the first Hokie since Bimbo Coles in 1988-89 to reach that plateau as a junior.