November 12, 2011
Hokies down ETSU in season opener
By Jimmy Robertson
12F
East Tennessee State (0-1) 213253
Virginia Tech (1-0) 244064
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 7,189
  • High Points: 13 - Tyrone Garland
  • High Rebounds: 16 - Dorian Finney-Smith

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech got big performances from freshmen Robert Brown and Dorian Finney-Smith and got past East Tennessee State 64-53 in the season opener for both teams played Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.

The Hokies, who overcame poor shooting, won their ninth consecutive opener under head coach Seth Greenberg despite an opening-game roster that included just two seniors.

“You look around the country and you see what happened to UCLA yesterday [a loss to Loyola Marymount],” Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. “You see Belmont [a one-point loss at Duke], who is picked ahead of these guys [ETSU] in their league [the Atlantic Sun].

“This time of the year is not about where you are. It’s about where you’re going. You just want to find a way to get through these things and find a way to win. That’s why I’m proud of our guys. We found a way to win.”

Brown delivered the clutch plays in the second half for the Hokies. Tech, which used a 9-0 run to lead 24-21 at halftime, made it 37-28 on a basket by Victor Davila, but saw the Buccaneers cut the lead to 40-36 with a little more than 12 minutes remaining on a basket by Marcus Dubose.

But Brown, a native of Clermont, Fla., connected on back-to-back 3-pointers right after Dubose’s basket to give Tech a 46-36 lead. ETSU again got within four points, at 55-51 with 1:49 remaining, but Brown sank two free throws with 1:16 to go, and then after a Buccaneer turnover, Ty Garland hit two free throws with 1:04 remaining for Tech. ETSU got no closer than six the rest of the way.

“My butterflies finally went away, and I got comfortable,” Brown said. “Then the shots started falling. My teammates did a good job of finding me when I got hot.

“Coach [Greenberg] told me to stay aggressive and keep shooting, even after I missed my first three [shots] in the first half. In the second half, he told me, if I had an open shot, to be confident and shoot it, and I did and they started to fall.”

Garland, a sophomore from Philadelphia making his first career start in place of injured point guard Erick Green (strained Achilles), led the Hokies with 13 points. He hit 3 of 7 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, including four straight in the final 1:04. He dished out three assists, but also had seven of Tech’s 15 turnovers in a career-high 24 minutes – five of those coming in the first half.

“I just wanted to get this win,” Garland said. “I just wanted to go out there and play my role. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but as the game went on, I got a good feel for it.

“This was my first time playing the point since my 10th grade year, so it was different. But I got used to it as the game went on.”

“I thought he hung in there,” Greenberg said of Garland. “He got better defensively, and he got more confident. He’s got to be more vocal. But he hung in there. I’m proud of him.”

Finney-Smith added 10 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots for Tech, which shot just 39.6 percent from the floor (19 of 48). He became the first Tech player to record a double-double in his debut since 2007 when Jeff Allen scored 19 points and grabbed 10 boards in Tech’s win over Elon.

“Rebound the ball hard – that’s what I do,” Finney-Smith said. “I expected to do that and to play some defense. It was everything I expected.”

ETSU, which missed its first 12 3-pointers and shot 29.7 percent from the floor (19 of 64), got 13 points from Adam Sollazzo. Isiah Brown and Sheldon Cooley added 10 each.

The Hokies now gear for the NIT Season Tip-Off, playing Monday night against Monmouth. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.

For updates on Virginia Tech men's basketball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MBBall).

For updates on the Hokies, follow Jimmy Robertson on Twitter (@jrobIHS).

HokieSports Shop