Saturday, February 16, 2013

Virginia Tech's struggling offense baffles Johnson

The Hokies have lost seven straight games, scoring fewer than 60 points in the last three.

Virginia Tech guard Robert Brown tries to get past Virginia guard Paul Jesperson (2) on Tuesday. Brown and Jarell Eddie are in scoring slumps as Erick Green continues to be the top scorer.

Associated Press

Virginia Tech guard Robert Brown tries to get past Virginia guard Paul Jesperson (2) on Tuesday. Brown and Jarell Eddie are in scoring slumps as Erick Green continues to be the top scorer.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

Men’s basketball Saturday

Virginia Tech at N.C. State
2 p.m. at PNC Arena

Records: Virginia Tech 11-13, 2-9 ACC; State 17-7, 6-5.

TV: ESPN2

Last meeting: State won 70-58 at Tech on March 4, 2012.

Va. Tech probable starters: F C.J. Barksdale (4.5 ppg), C Cadarian Raines (7 ppg), G Robert Brown (8.9 ppg), G Erick Green (25.2 ppg) and either G Will Johnston (2.5 ppg) or F Jarell Eddie (12.8 ppg).

State probable starters: F C.J. Leslie (15.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg), F Richard Howell (13.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg), F Scott Wood (11.5 ppg), G Rodney Purvis (9.2 ppg), G Lorenzo Brown (12.8 ppg).

Notes: Green is the nation’s scoring leader, but this is only the second time this season the Hokies will be on ESPN or ESPN2. The first time was back on Dec. 8 at West Virginia. The third and final time of the regular season will come Thursday against Duke on ESPN. … State has been idle since winning 58-57 at Clemson on Sunday on a Wood 3-pointer with one second left. … Brown came off the bench in that game after missing the previous two games with an injured ankle. State lost both the games he missed (Miami and Duke), as well as the Jan. 29 game against Virginia in which he played only 10 minutes before getting hurt. … State won its first meeting with Duke on Jan .12. … T.J. Warren averages 11.4 points off the bench for State.

Men’s basketball today

Virginia at North Carolina
Noon, Smith Center

Records: UVa 18-6, 8-3 ACC; Clemson 16-8, 6-5 ACC

Television: WDBJ

Last meeting: The Cavaliers defeated the Tar Heels 61-52 in Charlottesville on Jan. 6.

Virginia probable starters: F Joe Harris (16.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg), F Akil Mitchell (12.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg), F Justin Anderson (6.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), G Evan Nolte (6.9 ppg), Paul Jesperson (4.8 ppg), G Jontel Evans (3.6 ppg, 5.0apg).

North Carolina probable starters: F James-Michael McAdoo (14.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), F Reggie Bullock (14.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), G P.J. Hairston (12.8 ppg), G Dexter Strickland (7.7 ppg), G Marcus Paige (7.0 ppg, 4.3 apg).

Notes: Carolina had won nine of the previous 10 games between the teams before the Cavaliers prevailed at John Paul Jones Arena earlier this season. UVa’s only victory in the previous 10 games was at the Smith Center, 75-60, in 2010. … The Tar Heels are coming off a 73-68 loss Wednesday at Duke, where Carolina led by 10 points in the first half. … Virginia has won seven of its last eight games. … Joe Harris has scored 20 or more points in four of UVa’s last five games and had 18 in the other. He broke his left (non-shooting) hand at the Smith Center last year.

James Johnson is baffled.

Johnson is the rookie coach of the Virginia Tech men's basketball team, which features Erick Green, the nation's scoring leader, and ... not much else.

As Johnson put it Friday, the Hokies are "offensively challenged right now, everyone except Green."

As a Tech assistant, Johnson was part of the staff that recruited all of the current Hokies.

So why do the last-place Hokies (11-13, 2-9) have only one player consistently making an impact in ACC games?

"These guys have shown they can do it," said Johnson, whose team will visit North Carolina State at 2 p.m. today. "They've just got to come out and do it now. It's just baffling that they haven't been able to be consistent and do it all year long."

Green averages 25.2 points, but he was the only Hokie to score in double figures in Tuesday's loss at Virginia.

Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown are in shooting slumps. C.J. Barksdale has gone eight straight games without scoring in double figures. Cadarian Raines has scored just three baskets in each of the past two games.

The Hokies, on a seven-game losing streak, have scored fewer than 60 points in each of the past three games.

"Scoring in the 50s, it's going to be hard to win," Green said. "We've got to get guys scoring in double figures more consistently. ... We've got to get guys to step up and play."

The Hokies' offensive woes could continue at N.C. State (17-7, 6-5).

"We're going to have trouble scoring over their guys," Johnson said. "They're bigger and more athletic probably at every position."

This game will feature two of the ACC's better point guards, Green and State's Lorenzo Brown. On Feb. 21, the ACC's best big man, Duke forward Mason Plumlee, will visit Tech. On Feb. 27 at Miami, Green will tangle with standout point guard Shane Larkin.

"This is what I've been waiting for," Green said. "I love to play against the best guards or the best players, they claim, in the ACC. This is what it's all about. So I'm really looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to Saturday. I'm excited."

When Green was 0 for 7 from the field in the first half at UVa, Johnson wasn't happy because he wanted Green to be more aggressive. He wants Green to be in "attack mode" today, although he doesn't equate that to a certain number of shots.

"If that means you draw three people and make the pass, which leaves Marshall Wood open for a 3, that's good," Johnson said. "Aggressive, attacking may not necessarily mean [taking] the shot every time."

The Hokies are shooting just 39.5 percent from the field in ACC play.

Johnson said there is "a lot of wear and tear" on his players' legs. He said the Hokies will get out in transition and run "in spots" today.

The rest of the time, the Hokies will have to execute their halfcourt offense -- against a defense that knows what to expect.

"Everyone knows that it's probably going to be a set for Green or some type of action for Green," Johnson said.

Green wants the Hokies to relax, have fun and stay positive. He remains unhappy with the team's mood.

"I understand we're losing and it does [stink], it's one of the worst feelings," Green said. "We're kind of a little down."

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