Sunday, December 23, 2012

Virginia Tech rallies in OT to top Bradley

The Hokies play Colorado State Sunday night for the Las Vegas Classic title

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

LAS VEGAS — Erick Green and Virginia Tech did not want to let another one slip away.

The Hokies were coming off a somewhat embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern in Blacksburg, Va., on Dec. 15 and trailed by four against Bradley in overtime with 27 seconds left.

That's when Green, the nation's second leading scorer, took over scoring the next five points in a five-second span. He finished with career bests of 31 points and eight rebounds to lead Virginia Tech over Bradley 66-65 in overtime at the Las Vegas Classic's third round Saturday night. The Hokies play for the championship on Sunday night against Colorado State.

Green converted a layup for a three-point play with 26 seconds left. Five seconds later, after Bradley's Walt Lemon Jr. turned the ball over on the inbounds pass, Marquis Rankin found Green open for another layup, giving the Hokies the lead that stood as they reached the Classic's championship game. Lemon Jr. missed free throws and field goal attempt in the final 11 seconds

"We had to turn the pace up a little faster," said Green, a senior guard who was averaging 24.8 coming into Saturday. "They turned the ball and we executed. We came out flat [against Georgia Southern]. Overall, we got this win and hopefully, we back on track and move forward."

Virginia Tech coach James Johnson kept trapping Bradley all night and it paid off.

"As the game went on, we tried to speed the game up," said Johnson. "We were not trying to allow to many of their set plays. In the end, I thought we wore them down a little bit."

Green was 11 of 20 from the field and 7 of 11 from the free-throw line. Green, whose previous best of 28 points came earlier against Oklahoma State, played 41 minutes Saturday.

"I love his heart," Johnson said. "He's a warrior. After he missed a couple of free throws, he never got his head down. He calmed down and helped his teammates. He's also getting the ball to the right guys. Those are the things he's really good at. He's doing a little bit of everything."

Cadarian Raines had 16 points and nine rebounds for Virginia Tech (9-2), which had 24 turnovers.

Dyricus Simms-Edwards led Bradley (8-3) with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Braves had 20 turnovers with Lemon Jr. committing 10.

Trailing 66-65, Lemon Jr. (nine points) missed two potential go-ahead free throws with 11 seconds left. The Braves got the ball after the Hokies knocked it out of bounds with 7 seconds left.

On the inbounds pass, Lemon Jr. drove around the right side and missed the potential winning basket with 2 secondse left.

"We didn't make enough winning plays," said Bradley coach Geno Ford, whose team led 65-60 with 41 seconds left. "If Lemon makes any of those shots, it's a whole different story on how he persevered. We were in position to win and you can't miss free throws.

"When you have a five-point lead [in the final minute], how is the other team going to get back in it? We turned the ball over. You can't leave the door open against good teams.."

Trailing 55-53 in the final seconds of regulation, Lemon Jr. converted an open layup to tie it 9 seconds left after a steal. On the next possession, Green's 15-foot jumper from the right side hit off the back iron, forcing overtime.

Bradley shot 26 percent in the second half and was 2 of 5 from the free-throw line in overtime.

Tyshon Pickett and Jordan Prossner each added 10 points for Bradley.

Despite the opening two Virginia Tech points, the Braves led throughout the first half, building a 23-10 lead with 9:53 left in the half. The Hokies cut the lead to 26-21, before Bradley's halftime lead.

Green had 11 first-half points.

"All the good players have a long-range shot and an inside game, but he has a mid-range game," Ford said. "He's lethal at 15 feet. You don't see a lot of that."

Bradley is now 12-6 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

The Hokies were without Marshall Wood, who fractured the third metatarsal in his left foot in the Georgia Southern loss on Dec.15. The freshman forward is out indefinitely. Wood was averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.

Bradley's bench outscored Virginia Tech's reserves 19-5.

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