For an out-of-conference coach, Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford has probably seen more of Virginia Tech and Erick Green in the last three years than anyone in the country. After Saturday afternoon, Ford will be pleased never to see them again.
Green scored 28 points and hit eight critical free throws in the final 76 seconds as Virginia Tech continued its surprising start under new coach James Johnson, beating the No. 15 Cowboys (5-1) for the fourth time in the past three seasons.
”He’s one of the best guards in the country, one of the best point guards in the county, bar none,” Ford said of Green, who did all his scoring and grabbed seven rebounds in just 26 minutes after drawing two fouls in the first three minutes.
The Hokies, picked to finish 10th in the ACC, are off to their first 7-0 start since the 1982-83 season, and their victory was their first nonconference triumph against a ranked team since they beat Virginia in December 1995 at Roanoke Coliseum.
”I think people were sleeping on us because of the coaching change and because of the players that left,” Green, thee Hokies’ lone senior, said. ”But I hope that we’ve shown people we can play with anybody and that we’re a great team.
”We’ve got to keep it going. Consistency is the key,” Green said.
Robert Brown added 18 points and Jarell Eddie had 15 with 12 rebounds for the Hokies, who outrebounded the taller, more athletic Cowboys 41-31 and scored 22 points off their 13 offensive rebounds. The victory finished a week that started with a 95-79 blowout of Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a game that many viewed as their first real test of the year.
”Coach Johnson told us that we could do anything we wanted if we put our mind to it as a team, and everyone is putting their minds to one game at a time and winning that game,” Brown, a sophomore guard, said. ”We’ve done it so far.”
Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart scored 18 each to lead the Cowboys (5-1).
Smart hadn’t played in those earlier losses, but heard all about them this week.
”We were pretty amped up knowing that they beat us in those two meetings last season, and we knew they were going to be pumped up, especially with us in the top 15,” Smart said. ”We knew we were going to have to come and play.”
The game was close throughout, especially after Tech saw an eight-point led cut to 69-66 on Markel Brown’s deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:22 remaining. Then Green took over, and the Hokies were in good hands.
Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one for Virginia Tech, but as Oklahoma was setting up its offense, Green stole the ball and was fouled driving toward the basket. He made both, pushing the Hokies’ lead to 71-66. Nash made 1 of 2 at the other end, and Green was fouled again with 53.8 seconds left. He made both again, and the lead climbed to 73-67.
”We had a few misses, but at the end, when it counted, everyone hit them,” Green said.
He finished the game having made 51 of his last 53 from the line.
Green played only nine minutes in the first half after drawing two quick fouls, but still scored 10 points in his time. He also scored the Hokies’ first 10 points of the second half on a pair of 3-pointers, two free throws and a long fadeaway.
”Even the guys told me they were going to feed off me and that I was going to have a big second half,” Green said. ”I had a challenge in front of me and wanted to show people that I could play with the best. Hopefully, I showed people that.”
Jarell Eddie’s 3-pointer gave Virginia Tech a 49-46 lead with 15 minutes left. Forte scored for Oklahoma State, and Robert Brown, answered, putting back his own miss. Smart’s drive cut the Hokies’ lead to 51-50 with 13:17 to go, but the Cowboys didn’t score against for 5:05 as the Hokies reeled off seven straight.
The Cowboys used a 9-2 run featuring five points by Smart to close to 60-59, but after the Hokies’ Robert Brown and the Cowboys’ Kamari Murphy traded baskets, Virginia Tech scored seven of the next nine.
The Cowboys led 36-32 at a first half in which both teams took turns going on short scoring bursts.
The biggest of those was an early 10-0 run by Oklahoma State that gave it a 12-7 lead. The score remained close until 3-pointers by Smart and Forte around an inside basket by Michael Cobbins gave the Cowboys a 34-26 lead. Virginia scored six of the last eight points in the half to get within four at the break.
The last three meetings were in preseason tournaments in 2010 and 2011, and a scheduled game Dec. 31, 2011 in Stillwater.