Virginia Tech 79, ETSU 50

HokieCentral's Game Report

At halftime of this game, the Hokies were only leading 23-20 and had turned in an offensive performance that reminded everyone of the way last year's team struggled to put points on the board.  The Hokies had gotten good open looks.  They just weren't hitting anything and totaled only 33% shooting in the first half.

Meanwhile, ETSU was fighting to avoid the shutout.  If Tech had gotten the wheels greased earlier, this game would have been extremely ugly at halftime.  To give you an example of how poor the offensive play had had been, Tech led this game 11-4 with ten minutes to go in the first half.  Do the math:  at that rate, that's a final score of 44-16.  That won't win any beauty contests.

At halftime, I looked at the sizable contingent of fans in the student section and - you know me, I'm always so concerned with attendance - I thought to myself "Gee, if we don't look better in the second half, we're going to lose a lot of these kids."   The student attendance has risen nicely since Tech fought South Carolina and North Carolina to a virtual standstill last weekend, but I'm sure the new marriage between the students and the basketball team is still a rocky one that could collapse if the team were to do something so heinous as be "boring."

Have no fear, folks.  Super-Hokie, a.k.a. Rolan Roberts, is here.

When the team came out of the tunnel after the half, I'm sure most of them had at least a few teeth marks on their rear ends, courtesy of Coach Bobby Hussey.  And they played like it.  Tech blew out of the gate in the second half and left ETSU behind, outscoring the Buccaneers a whopping 56-30 after the break.  The Hokies shot 57% in the second half.

It wasn't so much the points, though, as the way they scored them.  Rolan Roberts started it off with a couple of breakaway jams that brought the Cassell crowd to their feet.  One of the best quotes I've read lately was something assistant coach Mike Kelly said about Rolan in The Hokie Huddler: "He dunks as if he hates the rim."  Rolan was a terror in the middle on defense too, swatting away six shots in a block-fest that is starting to become the norm for him against outmanned teams like ETSU, Radford, and Liberty.

I can't wait to line Rolan up against A-10 West Division rival George Washington.   GW's monster center, Alexander Koul, is in for a rude surprise if he thinks he can bull his way around the middle like he has in years past on this Tech team.

Once the Hokies started to smell blood, they pushed the ball up the court relentlessly, leading to a number of fast break buckets that brought the house down.  Andre Ray, who can jump out of the gym, got into the act, throwing down two wide-open slams, including one reverse rim-rocker that reminded me of a dunk Bimbo Coles threw down on Cincinnati in Bimbo's magical sophomore year.

I remarked several times last year that in Bill Foster's slow-down, halfcourt offensive scheme, Andre was an open-court thoroughbred that was being wasted.  This is a kid who needs to be out front on the wing during a break, and last night, he finally had a couple of opportunities to show his stuff.  Andre's fortes are rebounding and fast breaks, and this year, under Coach Hussey, he is flourishing.

Jenis Grindstaff, apparently fully healed from his ankle injury, got to show his stuff, too.  Jenis's "stuff" is completely different from Rolan and Andre's "stuff," but it's just as exciting.  Jenis threw two incredible passes in this game that I won't even try to describe, because I can't do them justice with words, but his most impressive play came on a coast-to-coast drive where he weaved his way through the entire ETSU team (a la Danny Ainge) and scored a layup.

If you look at Jenis's numbers, they weren't very good:  1-5 on FG's, 1-3 on FT's, 3 points, and a 7 assists.  But you can't judge Jenis's game on numbers alone.   If you missed last night's game, you missed three exceptional plays by Jenis that only the great players make.

My one last comment is that I like the way Bobby Hussey lets these guys run the ball and experiment.  Twice last night, Rolan got out front on his way down court, and twice the Tech guards tried to lob it to him from about halfcourt.  Both lob passes were poor passes, and perhaps ill-advised, and they were both picked off by ETSU.

In the past, if Troy Manns had tried something like that, Coach Foster would have chewed him out and perhaps even sat him down on the bench for a few minutes.  But it's a new day in the Cassell - Coach Hussey lets 'em run, and he doesn't scream at them when something goes awry.  The Hurryin' Hokies may not be back yet, but they've gotten up out of their chairs and are trying their legs.

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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