|(14) Miami (16-3, 7-0)||29||44||73|
|Virginia Tech (11-9, 2-5)||32||32||64|
BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s Erick Green scored 30 points, but Miami’s overwhelming size, strength and athleticism were too much for the Hokies, as they fell to the Canes 73-64 in an ACC game played Wednesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
Tech fell to 11-9 overall on the season, 2-5 in ACC play. Miami, ranked 14th in one poll and 15th in another, moved to 16-3 overall, 7-0 in the ACC. The Canes, a senior-dominated squad, have won eight straight games.
“I thought we had opportunities,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “I thought the kids continued to fight and to play hard. We’ve just got to find a way to put a 40-minute game together.”
Tech led by as many as 12 in the first half, but Miami climbed back in it, using a 16-2 run spanning both halves to grab a 38-34 lead following Kenny Kadji’s basket with 16:42 left. Green, though, kept it a game. He buried 3-pointers on three of the Hokies’ next four possessions, with the final one giving Tech a 43-41 lead with 13:37 remaining.
Tech led 45-44 following a Cadarian Raines basket, but the Canes went on a 10-0 run after that to take the lead for good. Kadji’s basket with 8:19 left in the game gave the Canes their biggest lead, 54-45, at the time. The Hokies cut it to 60-56 on three Jarell Eddie free throws with 2:14 remaining, but Miami’s Shane Larkin buried a 3-pointer with 1:48 left to push the lead back to seven and seal the game.
Larkin, a sophomore guard, hurt the Hokies with 25 points. He hit 9 of 14 from the floor, including five 3-pointers.
“I thought he was the key to the team,” Johnson said. “He’s the head on the snake. We had to contain him. He made big plays. He made big shots behind the ball screens … We kept him out of the lane, but he did a great job of knocking his shots down.”
“He’s a good player,” Green said. “I told him after the game that he was going to be a heckuva point guard in this league. He can do it all. He’s so fast, he’s so quick, and he can shoot the ball and score. He’s a great player, and I respect his game.”
Green, the nation’s leading scorer at 25.2 points per game coming in, hit 11 of 20 from the floor, including a career-high five 3-pointers. The Hokies hit nine 3-pointers – their most since a win over UNCG on Nov. 19 – but were hurt by 17 turnovers.
Green scored 35 points against Virginia, 25 against Clemson and 30 against the Canes – the three top defenses in the league (scoring defense). But the senior needs more help. Eddie scored 14 points and Raines added 10.
“We’ve got to have other guys make plays,” Johnson said. “We got two points out of three starters – Rankin, Barksdale and van Zegeren – and we got another zero out of Marshall Wood coming off the bench. After six weeks (coming off the broken foot), how much are we going to get from it? I don’t know what we’ll get from him. He’s playing hard and competing, but he’s just rusty right now.”
The Hokies shot a respectable 45.3 percent from the floor. Miami shot 48.1 percent and hit nine 3-pointers in the game.
Tech will try to right things on the road this Saturday when it travels to Chapel Hill N.C., for a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tipoff for the game is slated for noon.
“They’re still fighting,” Johnson said of his team. “They’re still finding excitement. They’re still encouraged about what we’re able to do. We’re so close – and they played really well tonight. That’s the best team in the ACC and one of the hottest teams in the country. We’re right there. We need other guys to step up and make plays. When certain opportunities are there, we need guys to make plays.”
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