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January 11, 2013

Injury to Wood creates opportunity for walk-on

By: Jimmy Robertson

Christian Beyer expected to be a player who only helped out in practices, but he has played more than 20 minutes per game since Marshall Wood went down with a foot injury.

Around this time a year ago, Christian Beyer spent his free time playing in pick-up basketball games at McComas Hall.

This year, though, he plays basketball across the parking lot from McComas Hall – in Cassell Coliseum.

The 6-foot-7 forward from New Bern, N.C., has been a bright spot in a recent down spell for the Virginia Tech basketball team, filling in quite capably for injured freshman Marshall Wood. Wood, arguably the Hokies’ top reserve who was averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, fractured his left foot in Tech’s loss to Georgia Southern on Dec. 15 and had missed four games heading into Tech’s ACC home opener against BC on Jan. 9.

Tech lost three of those four games, but not because of Beyer. In fact, the sophomore received more than 20 minutes of playing time per game in that span because of his production.

“I’m surprised,” Beyer said. “Marshall went down, and we had some problems with some other guys. There I was playing 20 minutes a game, but I feel like I’ve stepped up and did my job.”

In the overtime win over Bradley on Dec. 22, he scored three points and grabbed nine rebounds. He grabbed four rebounds in the loss to Colorado State on Dec. 24, and then in the loss to BYU, he scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. In that game, he hit 4 of 6 from the floor and 1 of 2 from the free-throw line.

Beyer’s biggest play came in Tech’s overtime win over Bradley. In the overtime session, he and Marquis Rankin teamed to force a turnover by Bradley’s Walt Lemon, Jr., with 21 seconds left and the Hokies trailing by a point. Rankin then threw the ball to Erick Green, whose layup gave the Hokies a 66-65 lead. Lemon, Jr., then missed two free throws and a jumper in the final seconds, enabling the Hokies to escape with a quality win.

“He’s been working hard all year, and I’ve told those guys (the walk-ons) that they’re going to have to help us at some point win a game,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “He helped us in the Bradley game and played well in the BYU game. Hopefully, he can continue to give us some minutes.

“Just going to the offensive glass, really,” Beyer said, explaining his success. “I’m not an offensive threat outside of the lane, but every time a shot goes up, I go to the offensive glass. I’m getting trash goals, I guess you could say. I’m getting the junk and putting it back up.”

He’s traveled quite the road, considering he came to Tech as a “normal” student. He played at New Bern High School and once came to a camp at Tech during his junior year. Tech’s staff liked him, but felt he wasn’t quite good enough for a scholarship offer.

But Johnson and his staff needed bodies coming into this season, as attrition and the defection of recruit Montrezl Harrell left the roster a little thin. So the coaches offered Beyer an opportunity to come in and help them in practices, and he readily accepted.

“I just saw myself as a practice guy, helping out and filling in spots where they needed me,” Beyer said. “Making sure the five starting guys were pushed to their potential so that they could see what they’re going to experience in a game. I try to do that to the best of my abilities.”

Now, he’s become more than a practice player – much more. It’s a role that may continue, too, as Wood may be out until the end of January.

Hokies fall in ACC opener

Tech never led in falling 94-71 to Maryland in the Hokies’ ACC opener on Jan. 5 in College Park, Md. Seth Allen paced four Terrapin players in double figures with 21 points, while Jake Layman added 20.

Tech, which shot just 37.3 percent, got 28 points from Erick Green. Robert Brown scored 11 points, while Joey van Zegeren finished with 10, tying his career high (Iowa earlier this season). Van Zegeren, who added five rebounds, made his first start of the season, as Johnson decided to bench sophomore C.J. Barksdale because of a lack of effort.

Tech fell to 2-7 in ACC openers since joining the league. The Hokies last won an ACC opener in 2006 when they beat Wake Forest 63-60 on Dec. 17 of that year. They fell to 1-8 in ACC road openers, with their lone win coming against Duke in that same 2006-07 season.

Hokies looking to tighten up defense

As the Hokies headed into that ACC home opener against BC, they had lost three straight games, and the biggest problem centered on their defense. Tech gave up 94 points to Maryland and 97 to BYU in back-to-back losses, while also giving up 88 in a loss to Colorado State. Here is a look at the shooting percentages of Tech’s opponents in the Hokies’ losses heading into the BC game:

Opponent FG 3-point FG
Maryland 51.7 43.5
BYU 46.5 36.8
Colorado State 47.6 45.8
Georgia Southern 43.9 42.3
West Virginia 35.3 41.7

Johnson said that his team needed to quit letting its offense affect it on the defensive end.

“Our defense has been predicated on our offense,” Johnson said. “We’re a better defensive team when our offense is clicking, and we can’t be that way. We can’t let the offensive end of the floor affect us on the defensive end.

“When we’re getting stops and rebounding, we get out and run. We’ve got to do a better job of not letting our offense, when our shots aren’t going down, affect us on defense. We’ve got to get stops and get out and get some easy baskets.”

Green equals school mark

Erick Green scored 20 or more points in the Hokies’ first 12 games this season, tying the mark held by former player and Virginia Tech Hall of Famer Bob Ayersman, who scored 20 or more in the first 12 games of the 1958-59 season. Not only do those two hold the record for the most 20-point games to start a season, but also the most 20-point games at any point during a season.


Player Year Consecutive 20-pt. games
Bob Ayersman 1958-59 12
Erick Green 2012-13 12
Wally Lancaster 1987-88 11
Howard Pardue 1961-62 11
Bimbo Coles 1989-90 9

Green’s run at the record came to an end in Tech’s loss to BYU. He scored just 12 points in that game, hitting only 4 of 17 from the floor and missing all five of his free-throw attempts. He did dish out a team-high six assists.

“It was a great run at it,” Green said. “But my main thing is winning. It sucks that it (the scoring streak) had to end, but I knew it was going to end sooner or later. I’m glad I got it out of the way.”

Green rebounded with a 28-point game against Maryland.

Rankin registers career high

Rankin, the backup point guard, got off to a slow start this season, missing the first two games because of two deaths in his family within the same week – his great grandmother and his great uncle. Then he scored just seven points combined in the next six games, shooting 3 of 11 from the floor in that span.

But Rankin, a sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., scored a career-high 10 points in the Hokies’ victory over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 10. He played 13 minutes, hitting 3 of 4 from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and all three of his free-throw attempts.

“I had a tough time before the season started,” Rankin said. “But everyone on the team and the coaches were behind me and pulled me through everything.

“The first couple of games, I just had to get the flow of my game back. But I feel like I’m back now and I’m ready to contribute to my team.”

Rankin’s game coincided with a meeting with Johnson the day before the game. Johnson told him that he wanted to see Rankin play the way he was capable, and 24 hours later, Rankin delivered.

I had a big talk with him,” Johnson said. “I told him he needed to step up and the team needed him. He responded, and that’s huge for our team and big for Marquis and his confidence. He played like the Marquis that I know.”

Rankin’s previous career high of eight points occurred on three separate occasions, most recently versus Virginia last February.