Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: All step up for unselfish Hokies

BLACKSBURG -- Three seconds remained on the shot clock. Anyone who didn't know that only needed to listen to the juiced-up fans who were counting it down in that half-helpful, half-unnerving way that they always do.

But there were no nerves from the people with the ball. No panic. And certainly no rush. On this night, for this team, three seconds on the shot clock meant plenty of time remained for Virginia Tech to make at least one more pass.

So Malcolm Delaney swung it into the corner to Erick Green, who caught and released, then held his follow-through as the shot clock buzzer sounded. Then he made a fist and swung the right arm as the ball splashed through the net for a 3-point dagger -- the most critical basket on a night full of huge ones.

The Hokies shared like crazy here Tuesday. Divvied up the points, apportioned the assists, scattered the rebounds, segmented the steals. And that meant the heroes were plentiful as they walked off the court 91-83 winners over Maryland in a scintillating game at Cassell Coliseum.

You could tell right away that they would need everyone. Not 10 minutes had gone by before Jeff Allen and Victor Davila each had two fouls.

Aha! So this would be the night -- the one where we'd find out just what Tech could do with its two starting big men straddling that line between staying aggressive and avoiding the whistle. And they'd have to do it for more than a half.

"That really affected everything we do," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.

But what happened after that was among the more impressive things we've seen out of the Hokies this season. Davila -- despite his foul trouble -- and Terrell Bell wriggled out of their ancillary roles and became monsters.

There was Bell, snapping the net from the corner. There was Davila, making an assertive move toward the bucket and hitting that little baby hook that he loves so much.

There was Bell hustling back on what appeared to be an easy fast-break opportunity for Maryland, stripping his opponent and forcing the turnover. There was Davila dunking off an adroit pass from a driving Allen.

At the 10-minute mark of the second half, Davila and Bell had combined to put up 12 field-goal attempts -- and had hit them all.

The energy and production those two provided seemed to galvanize Tech against a Maryland team desperate for a quality win to impress the NCAA selection committee. For the Hokies, this became a game where everyone was an option, everyone was a threat.

With 7:20 left in the game, all five Tech starters had double-digits in points and at least three assists apiece. Think about that. Typically, it's one or two players on a particular night who are seeing the floor well enough to set up easy baskets for others. Usually, it's one or two players who get hot from the field and hoard the scoring.

This time, there were no stragglers among the starters -- in any phase. And that's how Maryland's bench, led by an inspired Terrell Stoglin, could outscore Tech's 38-3 and still not escape here with a win.

Who needs a bench? Not the Hokies, at least when Delaney's scoring 22, Green 20, Allen and Bell 16 and Davila 14. And not when the game seems to slow down, and unselfish plays develop like that Delaney-to-Green connection late in the second half.

That basket made it 82-76 and sent this place into a frenzy. It crushed the Terps. And it was one of the first things Greenberg mentioned afterward -- rightfully so.

"That," he said, "is what this team right now is all about."

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