GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies look to remain unbeaten as they head to the site of the ACC Tournament for non-conference action against the UNC Greensboro Spartans.
Virginia Tech is 3-0 under its first-year head coach James Johnson, who inherited a program than finished with a 16-17 overall record. Johnson began his tenure with an 80-62 win over East Tennessee State in the season opener. The Hokies then reeled off two more triumphs, which include a 19-point win over Rhode Island and a 95-80 decision over VMU. All three of Virginia Tech's contests have been in Blacksburg, which makes Monday its first road test of the season.
The Spartans have not been quite as fortunate in the early going and enter with a 1-2 mark after a 76-73 loss to East Carolina in Greenville on Friday. UNCG held a 39-31 advantage at the intermission before faltering down the stretch against the Pirates. The team is now officially under the watch of Wes Miller, who spent most of last season with the interim label in front of his position. Miller was the youngest coach in the NCAA Division I last season, but it did not stop him from earning the Southern Conference Coach of the Year Award or guiding the program to the leagues' North Division title.
The Hokies are an excellent defensive team on the perimeter this season as its opponents have netted just 12-of-74 from beyond the arc (16.2 percent). Virginia Tech lost the rebounding battle by two to ETSU in its opener, but it pulled down 44 boards to VMI's 33 its last time out.
Senior guard Erick Green will be a top candidate for ACC Player of the Year if he can keep up his early season success. He is second in the league in scoring with 23 ppg., which he is accompanying with 5.3 assists per contest. Green scored his 1,000th career point his last time out and finished the game with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Jarell Eddie is playing great in the frontcourt posting 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest. Robert Brown and Cadarian Raines are also carrying double-digit scoring averages. Raines is also tied with Eddie for the team-lead in rebounds.
Miller's squad is offensively potent with an average of 75.7 ppg on 45.6 percent shooting from the floor, which includes a 28-of-69 success rate on attempts from three-point range. Trevis Simpson can be attributed the most credit for UNCG's ability to light up the scoreboard. The junior swingman is leading the team with 21 ppg. Senior guard Derrell Armstrong (13.0) and freshman forward Kayel Locke (12.7) are also scoring in double figures on a consistent basis. Despite being just a shade over six feet tall, Armstrong is second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per contest.
While both teams have dynamic scorers, Green is going to be the best player on the floor in this one. The Hokies' point guard will have no trouble shredding the weak UNCG defense to pieces with his tremendous shooting and passing ability. The Hokies' defensive effort needs to improve down the stretch, but they should have no trouble out-dueling the Spartans in a shootout.
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