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January 19, 2013

Hokies Hold Off Wake 66-65

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Two players who haven't done much all season and certainly hadn't this game for Virginia Tech, picked a great time to do so.

Sophomore guards Marquis Rankin and Robert Brown hit running layups with under a minute to play and Wake Forest missed a pair of close shots in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 66-65 win.

"This year, I've been able to deliver a couple of times and hit big shots," Brown said. "Even last year, there were situations when Erick was in trouble, getting trapped off the ball screens and would find me. I think not only (Green), but the rest of the coaching staff has confidence that I'm gonna hit that shot."

After four first half points, senior guard Erick Green had a strong second half and finished with a game-high 22 points. But the final seven points came from Rankin, Brown and a three-pointer from junior forward Jarell Eddie with 1:39 to play. It was a bit of a surprise, but another sign that Green might have some capable teammates.

"Erick is our guy, there's no doubt about it, but we've got some other guys that can make plays," coach James Johnson said. "We need them to make plays more consistently, but we do have some other guys who can make plays. When they take Erick Green away in certain situations, these guys still have confidence to be able to make plays. Even though Robert and Marquis and those guys hadn't done a whole lot on the offensive end, they still know I've got confidence in them to make the play when the play's available for them."

Brown still shot 2-12 from the field and finished with four points. Eddie had 18 points, 15 coming in the second half.

It was a slow start for Virginia Tech, which didn't score until two and a half minutes in the game on a layup by sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale.

Green never really got going in the first half, scoring just four points. Luckily, Eddie did get going, with 15 first half points. His nifty up and under layup with 6:46 left in the half had the Hokies trailing 22-20.

But with Wake Forest shooting 5-12 behind the three-point line and outrebounding Virginia Tech 29-20, the Demon Deacons took a 37-31 lead at halftime. Wake Forest junior forward Travis McKie also punished the Hokies with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the opening frame.

Referee James Luckie also took a punishing in the first half, leaving the game with just two referees after straining his left calf muscle in the first half. But instead of taking advantage and being physical to start the second half, Virginia Tech went outside.

First, Barksdale hit a layup, but back to back jumpers, one from three-point range by Green gave the Hokies a 38-37 lead and forced a Wake Forest timeout with 18:07 to play.

"The first half didn't go my way," Green said. "It was my teammates that did it all. Everything they did, rebounding, playing hard, picking up the scoring for me. Jarell Eddie, Robert Brown, Cadarian Raines played like a man today. In the second half, me and my teammates did some positive things and I just took over. But I just wanna thank my teammates for today."

The Demon Deacons responded with an 8-0 run to take a 45-38 lead and take back control. A layup by freshman forward Tyler Cavanaugh upped the advantage to 51-43 with 11:59 to go and forced a Virginia Tech timeout.

The Hokies then showed life with a 6-0 run of their own, capped by a tough runner by Green and subsequent free throw to draw them within 51-49. Redshirt freshman forward Joey Van Zegeren tied the game at 51 on a dunk in the post.

A deep jumper just inside the arc by Green gave Virginia Tech a 55-53 lead. The two teams would trade threes to tie the score at 62 with 1:39 to play. Van Zegeren then drew a charge, before Rankin drained a runner in the lane with 45 seconds to go for his first basket of the game and a 64-62 advantage.

McKie then answered with a three-pointer at the top of the key with 30 seconds left to put Wake Forest back on top 65-64. Brown responded with a floater in the lane with 12.3 seconds left, but missed the free throw.

"Our first option coming out of the timeout was to look for Erick," Brown said. We knew they were gonna step up and try to take him out of the way. It's just, if I get the ball then make the play, maybe for myself or maybe for a teammate, looking for Jarell or Cadarian or somebody."

Wake Forest had a couple of chances in the final seconds thanks to an offensive rebound, but missed both.

The Hokies improve to 11-6, 2-2 in the ACC and host Virginia at 8 pm ET Thursday.


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