BLACKSBURG – Erick Green scored 18 of his career-high 28 points in the second half and hit eight free throws in the final 1:16 to help Virginia Tech upset No. 15 Oklahoma State 81-71 in a nonconference game played Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
With the win, the Hokies moved to 7-0 overall on the season, which marks their best start since the 1982-83 team won its first seven games to start the season. Oklahoma State fell to 5-1 overall.
Perhaps more impressively, Tech beat a ranked nonconference opponent for the first time since 1995 (UVa in Roanoke), snapping a 14-game losing streak to ranked nonleague foes. And the Hokies beat a ranked nonconference opponent at Cassell Coliseum for the first time since 1978 when they beat Syracuse.
“It’s all about team,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “It’s been about team. It’s been about hard work. It’s been about taking one game at a time. It’s about playing together. And we showed all those things on the floor tonight [Saturday].
“All those things, that’s how we did it. I can’t say enough about those guys in that locker room. They’ve been doing a great job since day one and did it again tonight.”
“Everyone just stepped up to the challenge,” Green said. “We wanted it more. I feel like, at the end of the game, we wanted it more than them. We’re an all-around great team, and these guys stepped up and made plays.”
The Hokies trailed at halftime following a first half in which Green spent 11 minutes on the bench after picking up two quick fouls. But in the second half, he heated up and got the Hokies going.
Green scored Tech’s first 10 points of the second half, helping the Hokies rally from a 36-32 halftime deficit. His basket with 16:52 remaining tied the game at 42.
Then Green’s teammates got in the act. Midway through the second half, Tech went on a 14-4 run, grabbing a 58-50 lead on Jarell Eddie’s basket with 9:16 remaining. Four different players scored in the run – but not Green.
“Everyone thinks it’s all about me,” Green said. “But we’ve got Rob (Brown) and Jarell (Eddie) and Joey (van Zegeren) and Cadarian (Raines) and Will (Johnston) … guys that can step up and score. We’re not a one-dimensional team. They can’t just focus on me. They need to focus on all these guys.”
Oklahoma State (5-1) cut the lead to 62-61 on a basket by Kamari Murphy with 4:58 left, but the Hokies outscored the Cowboys 19-10 the rest of the way, and Oklahoma State got no closer than three points the rest of the game.
Tech put the game away at the free-throw line, hitting its final 10 free throws and 13 of its final 15. The Hokies made 27 of 33 from the line, with Green connecting on 12 of 13. In contrast, the Cowboys made just 11 of 15 from the line.
Green scored more than 20 points for the seventh straight game to start the season – something no Tech player has done since Bimbo Coles opened the 1989-90 season by scoring 20 or more in the first nine games. Green hit 6 of 10 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Robert Brown added 18 points for the Hokies, who shot 43.6 percent from the floor. Jarell Eddie finished with his second double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Cadarian Raines added 10 points.
“Yeah, I think anything is possible,” Eddie said when asked if he thought this type of start was possible before the season. “Eight-and-0, 9-0, 10-0 is possible. We’re not going to short-change ourselves. We’re going into every game thinking we can win.”
Oklahoma State got 18 points from both Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash. The bigger Cowboys lost the battle of the boards, as Tech out-rebounded Oklahoma State 41-31.
The Hokies return to action next Saturday when they travel to Morgantown, W.Va., for a meeting with West Virginia. Tipoff for the game is slated for 4 p.m.
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