BLACKSBURG – Erick Green tied his career high with 28 points, but the Hokies’ cold shooting cost them, as they fell to Georgia Southern 78-73 in the second round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic played Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 8-2 overall on the season. Georgia Southern, a member of the Southern Conference, moved to 4-5 overall.
Tech fell behind 8-0 from the start and never led. The Hokies shot just 29 percent in the first half and 39.7 percent for the game, and they trailed by as many as 16 points with less than eight minutes left.
“I don’t think our confidence has taken a hit,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “I just think that this team has to learn. When you’re 8-1 coming into the game, 8-2 now, you’ve got to learn to play with a target on your back.
“Guys (opponents) are coming in to play. When you’re 8-1, you can’t just show up. Just because you’ve been winning some games and playing well, you can’t just show up. This is a young group, and the water is uncharted. So they’ve got to learn how to play like that.”
Behind guard C.J. Reed, the Eagles went on a 12-0 run that spanned both halves and took a 42-27 lead. His 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the first half started the run, and then he hit a 3-pointer and a layup with 18:10 left to cap the run.
The Hokies managed to cut the lead to 74-71 on a 3-pointer by Jarell Eddie with 54.3 seconds left, and a missed 3-pointer by Reed on the Eagles’ next possession gave the Hokies a chance to tie.
But Green’s 3-point attempt with 23 seconds to go was off the mark, and Tech fouled Cameron Baskerville with 19 seconds remaining. Baskerville nailed both free throws to give the Eagles a 76-71 lead, and after a Green layup cut the lead to 76-73 with 14 seconds left, Baskerville hit two more free throws with 13 seconds remaining to seal the game. The Hokies didn’t score again.
“When you don’t play 40 minutes of basketball, that’s what happens,” Green said. “We came out flat in the first half. They took the lead, and we never got it back. We were turning the ball over and not hitting shots. When you play like that … Georgia Southern is a good team, and they deserved to beat us.”
The Eagles did so in large part because of some outstanding 3-point shooting. They hit a season-high 11 3-pointers in 26 attempts, with Reed, freshman guard Cleon Roberts and junior Eric Ferguson combining for all of them. They also out-rebounded the Hokies 41-38.
But poor shooting probably hurt the Hokies more. Tech came into the game hitting 37.4 percent of its 3-point attempts. But the Hokies made just 6 of 27 from beyond the arc, with Eddie making just 3 of 13.
“Those are shots that have been going down for us,” Johnson said. “We had great looks. Eddie had great looks. You’ve got to live with it. You can’t take those away at this point. Usually we make them. They just didn’t go down for us tonight.
“It was just one of those nights. I was fearful that we would have one of those. We were shooting the basketball so well, and I was just fearful that one of those nights was going to come. When that happens, you’ve got to be strong on the defensive end of the floor, and those guys made shots. I thought a lot of those shots were contested, but they made them.”
Four of the Eagles’ five starters shot better than 50 percent or better from the floor, as Georgia Southern shot 43.9 percent (25 of 57). Reed hit 8 of 16 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from beyond 3-point arc, on his way to 22 points. Roberts added 20 points, hitting 7 of 12 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Ferguson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Eddie added 21 points for Tech, while C.J. Barksdale finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Hokies now take a week off before resuming their nonconference slate. Tech travels to Las Vegas next weekend for a Saturday game against Bradley. Tipoff is slated for 5 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).