Over a three-game homestand the Virginia Tech basketball team enjoyed leading up to its game with Seton Hall Saturday night, coach Seth Greenberg spoke very highly of his team’s “approach” after every game.
He had no idea how much better the approach could get.
With its best player and leading scorer Malcolm Delaney sidelined with a sprained left ankle, Saturday night was a huge challenge for the rest of the team.
Following the Hokies’ win over Longwood, the game in which Delaney went down a minute in, Dorenzo Hudson said the team needed to “just play ball”.
Hudson made it looked easy enough; scoring 41 points in a 103-94 overtime win.
Erick Green, while not spectacular, handled the pressure of his first career start in a tough environment with seven points and only three turnovers.
Green battled foul trouble the entire game. He played the final 12 minutes of regulation with four fouls, and made it four minutes into overtime before fouling out.
Jeff Allen, whom coach Greenberg has made it no secret to be the key to how far this team can go in the postseason, turned in his best game of the season. He scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The biggest play of the game for Allen came early on in overtime, when Allen stole the ball from Robert Mitchell at halfcourt and proceeded to finish on the other end with a rim-rattling two-handed slam.
No matter where the Hokies finish this season, they will look back at this game as their proverbial turning of the corner.
All of the odds were against them: no Delaney, freshman point guard, proven foe from the most powerful conference in the country. Had Seton Hall taken control of this game early and cruised to victory, nobody would have blamed the Hokies.
Instead, Tech seized control of the game early, and though the Pirates continued to fight back and even take the lead on several occasions, the Hokies never lost their composure.
Coach Greenberg can remember this game as the night Malcolm’s sidekicks revealed themselves. Hudson emerged with the best game of his career at the most important time. Clearly, the Hokies can look to someone besides Delaney for guidance when the game matters most.
Tech discovered an important aspect of its team tonight: they can win when Delaney is off the floor. There will be times during the next two months when he may be in foul trouble or, god forbid, be injured again.
This game gives the team confidence that they can step up if that happens.
Manny Atkins had a breakthrough moment, too. Leading by two with a minute to go in overtime, Atkins drained a three-point shot from the left wing. Seton Hall took the ball back down the court, and Jordan Theodore responded with a three of his own.
Immediately after the ball went through the net, Atkins sprinted towards the Hokies’ basket, catching a pass that Tyrod Taylor could not have thrown better, and finished with a right-handed slam that all but sealed the win.
As much as twenty-point runaway wins are nice, the game Saturday was exactly what coach Greenberg needed for his team. Facing the pressure of an overtime game against a team that nearly knocked off fifth-ranked Syracuse earlier in the week, Tech held its own against the experienced foe.
After last season, where they lost seven games in the final seconds, the Hokies are leaving no doubt this season as to who owns the floor.
The first 11 wins of the season for the Hokies were against suspect opponents, and that’s with the generosity of a Salvation Army volunteer. Finally, the Hokies have validated themselves against a worthy opponent, and secured an out-of-conference win that will impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee in March.
How’s that for an approach?