With all due respect to the hit song by the musical group “The Verve”, Virginia Tech’s 85-50 win over Longwood Wednesday afternoon was a bittersweet symphony.
After only one minute, 22 seconds had elapsed, the Hokies season may have taken a turn for the worse when leading scorer Malcolm Delaney suffered a frightening injury.
Delaney hit the floor hard underneath the Hokies’ basket, rolling on the floor in severe pain for over a minute, even after athletic trainer Chad Hyatt and head coach Seth Greenberg arrived at his side. The injury was diagnosed as a sprained left ankle.
Greenberg summoned seldom-used reserve guard Paul Debnam to assist Hyatt in carrying Delaney off the floor. He was unable to put any weight on the injured ankle, while exiting the floor to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
X-rays on the injured ankle were negative. Greenberg announced Delaney would undergo a precautionary MRI prior to the team’s departure for Cancun Wednesday night.
As Delaney was being attended to on the baseline, junior guard Dorenzo Hudson gathered the team at midcourt.
“I told the guys to just play ball, and we’ll deal with him after the game,” Hudson said.
By stretching the final margin to 35 points, Hudson’s advised appeared to be heeded well.
“Our kids really rallied (after the injury),” Greenberg said.
The rest of the first half played out seemingly unnoticed by much of the Cassell Coliseum crowd, which was more concerned with the situation of the Hokies’ fallen star.
Erick Green replaced Delaney in the lineup. The freshman played a career-high 30 minutes.
“I was nervous, I did not expect to play so early in the game,” Green said.
Despite the unanticipated volume of playing time, Green played well. He finished with 15 points to go with four assists. He did turn the ball over four times as well, however.
Entering the game, the Hokies expected Longwood (3-11) to incorporate a frenzied trapping scheme defensively, which led to many of the Hokies’ 18 turnovers.
“It was uncharacteristic of us,” Greenberg said, “I don’t know that it was because of anything they did, as much as it was the things we did not do.”
The loss of Delaney provides a world of problems for Tech, which faces Seton Hall (9-3) in Cancun on Saturday. That game should prove to be the toughest challenge yet for the Hokies.
“Seton Hall is a really good team; they rebound the ball, are athletic and long, and have a great scorer,” Greenberg said.
When will Delaney return?
“Not until he is ready to play,” Greenberg said, declining to elaborate.
The coach went on to say that Delaney’s rehab will begin immediately, and that all the necessary equipment to do so will accompany the team to Cancun.
The pressure of keeping the team on the right path now falls on the other 11 players on the Tech roster to pick up the slack created by the devastating injury.
Leadership on the court will have to come from other places, but Hudson is confident in his teammates.
“We will just have to step up and play ball.”