Searching for Answers
By Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com, 2/28/00

The post-game locker room interviews were almost over. The beat writers had cleared out, and Rolan Roberts sat alone, staring despondently at the floor. Around him, the other Tech players were in various stages of preparation for the trip home, all of them in their own dark moods, but none was in a darker mood than Rolan Roberts.

Techís junior forward had just finished a 15-point, 7-rebound performance, leading his team in both categories. He was nearly perfect from the field, going 5-6, the only miss from three-point range. Likewise, he had been uncharacteristically smooth from the free throw line, going 5-6 from there, too. He had added 2 blocks and 3 steals to his totals.

And he had complained to the referees only one time during the game, a completely justified objection to a lousy out-of-bounds call that unfairly gave him one of his four turnovers of the game.

Overall, Roberts had shown up ready to play. Most of his teammates had not, though, going 12-41 from the field without him, including 3-18 from the three-point line. As a result, the Hokies had gotten pounded by Duquesne, losing by 20 points to a team that hadnít been on the winning side since January 15th. Even lowly Rhode Island, 5-23 overall, had taken a chunk out of Duquesne during that stretch, beating them by 12.

"Rolan, can you talk for a couple of minutes?"

I asked him the question gently, thinking that maybe he had had enough of the questions about Duquesneís zone that had been so effective, or about the scuffle he had gotten into with Duquesneís Courtney Wallace.

And indeed, it appeared he had had enough. Rolan exhaled and shook his head, not looking up.

I gave him a few more seconds. "Never mind," I said quietly, thinking perhaps I should make my getaway and leave him in peace.

Rolan quickly looked up. "No, itís all right," he said moving aside and making room.

So he fielded the same questions again, but he still didnít have any answers.

"We just couldnít knock down the shots," he said, referring to Techís ice-cold 3-19 performance from behind the three-point line.

When asked about the teamís intensity, he said, "Some guys had it today. Others didnít," and left it at that.

About the tussle with Wallace, Rolan said, "I grabbed Montgomery to stop the breakaway. He (Wallace) saw it and came after me. I was a little surprised by it." All in all, he brushed off an altercation that ESPN2 had replayed repeatedly during their broadcast. To Roberts, it was much ado about nothing. His mind was on the loss.

Over on the other side of the locker room was Andre Ray, who had played a game that was the polar opposite of the one Roberts had played. He got off to a good start, knocking down a rare three-pointer for Techís first basket of the game, only 28 seconds into the contest.

That would be it for Ray, though. He would finish with just those three points and would play only 18 minutes, sitting on the bench as seldom-used Jermaine Kimbrough and Rodrigo Viegas logged an unusual 16 and 11 minutes, respectively.

But Ray was no less despondent than Roberts, just more forthcoming in his comments.

"I hit the first shot, and I was ready to go. I was ready to play. After that, I donít know, maybe I slacked off. I got taken out, I didnít get to play much, and I was taken out of my rhythm.

"My parents are home watching me on TV, and itís a sad thing for them to see their son perform the way that I did today. This is my last go-around, and the last thing I wanted my parents to see was their son sitting on the bench in his last college game."

Andre was overstating the situation, of course. He has two more regular-season games to play, at home in Cassell Coliseum, and then at least one A-10 Tournament game in Philadelphia. But his comments underline the mood of the team after this shocking loss to Duquesne.

Itís hard to figure out how the mercurial Hokies could throttle Xavier at home one weekend and then look flat against Duquesne the next. Itís hard to figure out how they could post three straight 80-plus point games in a row in mid-January, and two weeks later, score just 41 against a barely-better-than-average Massachusetts team ... at home. Itís hard to figure out how this Tech team could push Virginia to overtime on a neutral floor but lose back-to-back home games to Radford and Liberty in just three days.

"We knew coming in here today that this team (Duquesne) was going to be hungry," Ray said. "They hadnít won in ten games, but they were home, and they were going to play well. We just didnít come in with the same intensity that they did. And thatís just been the story in the A-10 this season. You go on the road, and teams just play a lot better when theyíre at home."

Like Ray and Roberts, Coach Ricky Stokes seemed baffled by Techís up and down performances, but he put it very succinctly in his post-game comments.

"You hope that this time of year, youíre getting better," he said. "But we keep taking one step forward, and then one step back." He paused. "Sometimes, itís two steps back."

Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager of HokieCentral.com.  He writes the News and Notes section, game previews, and game reports for HC, and he contributes a column when time permits.

          

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