Hokies Overpower Wildcats in First Round of NIT
By James Beale
March 16, 2011
Following Sunday's shocking exclusion from the NCAA Tournament, the Hokies wanted to avoid any potential embarrassment by losing in the first round of the NIT.
"They had every reason not to show up today, yet they did right from the beginning," said head coach Seth Greenberg.
Jumping out to a 23-9 lead and never looking back, the No. 1 seeded Hokies dispatched No. 8 Bethune-Cookman 79-54 with ease at home.
Players and coaches seemed focused on reaching Madison Square Garden for the NIT finals.
Virginia Tech was surprised at not making the NCAA Tournament. 86 of 89 bracket projectionists had the Hokies making the field of 68 teams, and following last Friday's controversial victory against Florida State, analysts and fans alike thought that had sealed the Hokies' at-large berth.
Instead, players and coaches gathered at Greenberg's house to find they had been left out of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row, and this one seemed to be the hardest to swallow.
"It's still in our minds," said senior Malcolm Delaney, "...but we're playing basketball, so that's all that matters."
Senior Terrell Bell said they kept watching ESPN over and over, listening to the analysts say they should've gotten in.
"It felt good to see everybody on our side for a change," he said.
"It hurt, on Sunday, going through all that," said sophomore Erick Green. Greenberg said he was "a little angry," but that his focus was squarely on this game.
"This isn't about not getting in [to the Tournament]," Greenberg said.
"We're motivated because we want to win games."
Sunday night, when asked about how he would motivate his team for the NIT, Greenberg said, "I don't know. I don't know," according to The Virginian-Pilot's Kyle Tucker.
That didn't seem to be a problem, as the Hokies controlled the game from the tip.
The Hokies went 10-11 FG to start the game, including three 3-pointers from senior Malcolm Delaney.
Bethune-Cookman, appearing in its first posteason game in school history, looked disheveled following the disastrous start. T
hey immediately lost two balls out of bounds after rebounds.
Greenberg said Virginia Tech "had some lineups out there that were absolutely comical."
One concern the Hokies have is the health of their players moving further into the postseason.
Junior Victor Davila did not play - Greenberg said he couldn't raise his right arm above his shoulder, and that "he played on pure guts" in the ACC Tournament.
He said the injury may have been suffered against Georgia Tech on a dunk, and that his status is uncertain.
Furthermore, Green hurt his ankle in practice yesterday, and Greenberg said he "had no idea" if he would play.
Green clocked 11 points in 28 minutes.
"I'm not a sitter," said Green.
Jeff Allen, in particular, seemed comfortable following his last game, a 2-point performance in the ACC Tournament against Duke.
He had 19 points and seemed comfortable all night in the paint.
The Hokies had five players in double figures.
In the second half, with the game out of hand, the 30%-full crowd and players bantered back and forth, with the crowd chanting "Andrew Grif-fin," wanting the senior benchwarmer to get into the game.
Eventually, he did.
The crowd also cheered every time graduate student Paul Debnam touched the ball and erupted monstrously when he made a layup.
Debnam also chatted with officials, with all of the other Hokies on the court smiling.
This was a scene far removed from the previous week.
The Hokies will face Wichita State in the second round Sunday at 11 a.m.