Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia rivalry game brings different challenges

Virginia Tech is looking to break a six-game losing streak, while UVa is jockeying for an NCAA bid.

Virginia's Jontel Evans (left) and Virginia Tech's Erick Green (11) bump elbows during the Cavaliers' 74-58 win over the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 24. Green, who scored 35 points in that game, will lead the Hokies into Charlottesville tonight to face the Cavs.

Photos by Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

Virginia's Jontel Evans (left) and Virginia Tech's Erick Green (11) bump elbows during the Cavaliers' 74-58 win over the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 24. Green, who scored 35 points in that game, will lead the Hokies into Charlottesville tonight to face the Cavs.

Virginia's Akil Mitchell (25) towers over Virginia Tech's Erick Green (11) in the teams' previous meeting, a 74-58 UVa win.

Virginia's Akil Mitchell (25) towers over Virginia Tech's Erick Green (11) in the teams' previous meeting, a 74-58 UVa win.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

Short shrift was given to the rivalry angle on the eve of the second Virginia-Virginia Tech men's basketball match-up of the season.

These are two teams with much broader -- and differing -- issues.

The Cavaliers (17-6, 7-3 ACC) are looking to enhance their NCAA tournament qualifications after winning six of their past seven games, including an 80-69 victory Sunday at Maryland.

Meanwhile, the Hokies (11-12, 2-8) will attempt to snap a six-game losing streak against its opponent in the first of those losses.

The Cavaliers beat Tech 74-58 at Cassell Coliseum last month, overcoming a 35-point effort by Hokies senior Erick Green.

There has been no let-up to Green's torrid pace, although teammates helped him to the locker room Saturday following a 64-54 loss to Georgia Tech.

Green, who had 28 points, was diagnosed with dehydration but has been pencilled in for an extended stint tonight, starting with a 7 p.m. tip-off at John Paul Jones Arena.

"Man, I'd like to be able to [rest] him more," first-year Tech coach James Johnson said, "but especially when you're playing a team like Virginia, where you've got to manufacture points and ... we don't have guys right now that are putting the basketball in the hole like we need them to, it's very hard to take him off the floor."

One of those guys, junior forward Jarell Eddie, missed all six of his field-goal attempts Saturday and did not score in an abbreviated 17-minute stint.

Eddie did not return to the court after an incident in which he splashed water and ice on the floor after spiking a water bottle in frustration.

Johnson wouldn't say if Eddie, who joins Green as one of two Tech players who are averaging in double figures, will make his 24th start of the season tonight.

"Jarell's frustration doesn't have much to do with the long [losing] streak," Johnson said. "He's been like that all the time, he's so hard on himself. ... It's just something that I'm trying to teach him as a young man. that he's got to be able to fight through adversity.

"He understands that he made a mistake. He understands that he hasn't played well, that he needs to play better for the team. He just has to go out and get it done."

The Hokies have been trying to get by with eight scholarship players, which makes it difficult to take advantage of Virginia's current manpower shortage.

Mike Tobey, a 6-foot-11 freshman who was 5 for 5 from the field in the first Tech-UVa game and had 10 points in 15 minutes, has missed the past two games and is out indefinitely with mononucleosis.

Darion Atkins, a 6-8 junior, played seven minutes at Maryland but had missed six of the previous seven games with a stress fracture in one of his shins.

"My hope is, he did not get worse," UVa coach Tony Bennett said. "I asked him how he was feeling after the game. He said, 'OK.' I didn't say it in the press conference [at Maryland], but the seven minutes he gave us were important because we were in foul trouble."

Junior Akil Mitchell, the Cavaliers' lone post player if Tobey and Atkins are not on the floor, picked up his second foul with 9:57 to go before halftime and did not play again till the second half.

Still, the Cavaliers had a 34-29 rebounding advantage over a Terrapins' team that had not been outrebounded all season.

Joe Lunardi, who analyzes the NCAA Tournament selection process for ESPN, listed Maryland and Virginia among the first four teams "out" of the field going into their game Sunday.

It was the first game UVa had won as an underdog all season.

"I'm just thankful to be in a position to be considered," said Bennett, whose third-place team was a preseason choice for seventh in the ACC. "I think the key is really to be resilient: Kind of love the challenge, embrace the challenge."

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