Erick Green was hitting shots from everywhere but Lane Stadium.
Fadeaway jumpers with hands in his face. Attacking drives to the hoop. Shifty fastbreak layups.
As evidenced by his 35 points back on Jan. 24, the Virginia Tech guard was pretty much unstoppable.
Fortunately for Virginia, Green’s sublime offensive performance didn’t matter much.
UVa put the clamps on all of Green’s teammates, took advantage of a porous Hokies’ defense and left Blacksburg with a 74-58 win.
Since then, Virginia and Virginia Tech have been heading in opposite directions. UVa, including the win over the Hokies, has won five of its last six games, while Tech has lost its last six in a row.
Tonight, the rivals renew acquaintances at John Paul Jones Arena.
“I thought we made him earn his shots,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett, referring to Green’s game last month. “You try and not let him have that many points...
“He can’t get easy ones. You have to try and contain him. Your team defense needs to be aware of him. You can’t just ignore the other players, but he certainly is the focal point.”
Green has been a one-man wrecking crew this season in leading the country in scoring (25.3 PPG), but has gotten little help from his teammates.
Symbolically, the exhausted senior had to to be helped off the court in the latter stages of the Hokies’ loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday after what was described as a bout of dehydration.
However, Virginia Tech coach James Johnson says Green is “good to go” for tonight and that he doesn’t plan on curtailing his playing time.
“We don’t have guys right now that are putting the basketball in the hole like we need them to,” Johnson said. “It’s very hard to take [Green] off the floor, but we’re going to have to find ways to give him a breather in certain spots.”
Johnson has as much respect for Virginia guard Joe Harris as the Cavaliers do for Green. In the win over Maryland on Sunday, Harris was 7 of 8 from the field for 22 points.
“I think he’s one of the best guys I’ve seen in a long time at reading screens,” Johnson said. “He’s an all-around player. You have to be very alert guarding him. You can’t take one thing away because he can do so many things well.”
Virginia, unlike Virginia Tech (11-12, 2-8), has more secondary scoring options to go to – something Johnson is well aware of. In the first meeting, UVa freshman Evan Nolte hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 18 points.
“Mitchell gives them an inside presence and Justin Anderson is playing extremely well right,” Johnson said. “Nolte can shoot the 3, [Paul] Jesperson shoots it and Jontel [Evans] is their leader there.
“They have a lot of different guys who make plays and can put the ball in the hole at given times. They play together as a team. They share the basketball and they’re gonna guard the crap out of you. We’re gonna have a tough time scoring.”
The funny thing is that Virginia (17-6, 7-3) has been more impressive on offense than defense lately. The Cavaliers have shot 55 percent in their last two games, including 49 percent (21 of 43) from 3-point range.
“I think guys have gotten rhythm shots with good looks,” Bennett said. “That doesn’t guarantee that you’re always going to make it, but I think they’re shooting it with confidence. We’re playing unselfish basketball ... and different guys are stepping up.
“The floor is probably a little more spaced because right now we don’t have Mike Tobey and Darion [Atkins], so a lot of times we have to play with Akil and four kind-of perimeter guys, which can cause some matchup problems.”
Atkins sounds like he'll once again be a game-time decision. Speaking on his radio show, Bennett said Atkins was held out of practice on Monday because he was "pretty sore." The sophomore forward played seven minutes against Maryland on Sunday. ... Tobey (mononucleosis) won’t be playing tonight and probably won’t be anytime soon. Bennett says another blood test is planned for the freshman center, but right now “he’s just got to rest and try and recover.”