Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hokies head west hoping their legs hold out

Down to seven scholarship players, Virginia Tech faces a veteran Brigham Young team on the road.

Virginia Tech coach James Johnson is worried about his team's lack of depth against Brigham Young.

Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

Virginia Tech coach James Johnson is worried about his team's lack of depth against Brigham Young.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

Men’s basketball today

Virginia Tech vs. BYU

2 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City

Records: Virginia Tech 9-3, BYU 9-4.

TV: ESPNU

Last meeting: BYU won 79-68 on Jan. 25 at Tech.

Va. Tech probable starters: F Jarell Eddie (14.7 ppg), F C.J. Barksdale (5.4 pgp), C Cadarian Raines (7.5 ppg), G Erick Green (25.4 ppg), G Robert Brown (10.4 ppg).

BYU probable starters: F Brandon Davies (20.3 ppg), F Josh Sharp (4.5 ppg), G Tyler Haws (19.3 ppg), G Matt Carlino (7.1 ppg), G Brock Zylstra (6.8 ppg).

Notes: BYU has lost by double digits to Florida State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Baylor. … BYU forced 24 turnovers in an 84-54 rout of Northern Arizona on Thursday. … BYU returns three starters from a team that made the NCAA tournament. Haws was not on the team the past two seasons because of a Mormon mission, but he started for BYU in 2009-10. … In last season’s meeting, then-Cougar Noah Hartsock blocked what would have been the tying layup by Green with 3 seconds left and Brown missed what would have been the winning 3-poiner at the buzzer.

The last time the Virginia Tech men's basketball team played a game, it lost by 36 points.

So coach James Johnson had plenty of reasons to fret as the undermanned Hokies headed west for the second straight week. They will face Brigham Young at 2 p.m. today.

"Their size is a concern. Their depth is a concern," Johnson said in a phone interview Thursday. "The fact that we've got to get back out to the West Coast ... is a concern. Our lack of depth is a concern.

"We're hoping that we'll have some legs, but you never can tell. These West Coast trips are long, and we're short on bodies. Even with practice, every guy's got to go just about every rep."

The Hokies went 1-1 in Las Vegas last weekend. Today's game will be played at the Utah Jazz's arena in Salt Lake City, not on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah.

The Hokies (9-3) will be playing their third straight game with only seven scholarship players. Reserve forward Marshall Wood is sidelined with a broken foot.

Tech beat Bradley in overtime last Saturday in the Las Vegas Classic, but playing on back-to-back nights proved to be too much of an obstacle. Colorado State thrashed the Hokies 88-52 in the Las Vegas Classic title game Sunday.

Colorado State (10-2), which returns four starters from an NCAA tournament team, started three seniors and two fifth-year seniors in that game. The Hokies trailed by just six points at halftime but were outscored by 30 points in the second half.

"We just didn't have enough in the tank in the second half," Johnson said. "Colorado State was a really good team. You don't see a college team starting five seniors. You're talking about an older, veteran group who played in the NCAA tournament. ... We're not panicking.

"We had to expend a lot of energy to get that [Bradley] win. We were a step slow [against CSU]."

Tech's Erick Green (25.4 ppg) is the leading scorer in the nation, but he will need more help from his supporting cast than he got against Colorado State. Green was 10 for 21 from the field in the loss, with the rest of the team shot 9 for 32 combined (28.1 percent).

Guard Robert Brown is shooting just 13.3 percent from the field the past four games combined.

"He's taking the same shots that he was hitting early on in the year," Johnson said. "I don't know whether fatigue's setting in on his legs."

BYU (9-4) is outrebounding foes by 4.5 rebounds per game. Their lineup features 6-foot-9 forward Brandon Davies (20.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), an All-West Coast Conference pick last season, and guard Tyler Haws (19.3 ppg).

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