Virginia Tech’s second game of the season had less fanfare, but the result was the same, as it defeated Rhode Island 69-50.
In James Johnson’s second game as head coach, the Hokies did all they needed to improve their record to 2-0.
“These are two pretty good teams that are going to be really good,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen a lot in this team. We’ve got a lot to work on, but the goal has been, from day one, to get better every day. I think we took a step forward from Saturday night.”
The Hokies were led in the scoring department by senior guard Erick Green, who poured in 25 points in 34 minutes. On Saturday, Green had 21 points against East Tennessee State in the Hokies 80-62 win.
As a junior last season, Green averaged 15.6 points per game in more than 35 minutes per game. Green already has back-to-back 20-point games this season, a feat he didn’t achieve all of last season. His 25 points also tied career-high.
“I honestly had no idea I had 25 until I was at the foul line and Jarell (Eddie) said, ‘You’re going for 30,’ and I looked up and just lost my focus," Green said. "Other than that I didn’t really care."
The Hokies, who are transitioning to Johnson’s up-tempo style of play, are still a work in progress offensively. Tech shot 45.6 percent from the field, about the same as they shot Saturday against ETSU (46.8 percent).
In the first half, the Hokies saw their lead grow to as large as 14 before the Rams cut it to four with two minutes left. Out of a timeout, Green sank back-to-bank 3-pointers and Eddie added a basket to go on an 8-0 run to finish the half.
“We played really fast in the first half; we came out strong,” Green said. “But then we always have this problem where we let them come back in the game. We’ve got to stop that.”
Cadarian Raines said the Hokies turn to Green when they need a crucial bucket.
“(Green’s) our senior leader and everybody knows he can score the ball,” Raines said. “Every team needs a guy like Erick Green, somebody to go to when we need a bucket, and we need him to score points.”
Although he’s not necessarily always the No. 1 option in those situations, Johnson said Green is a veteran that can get it done.
“Well, I don’t know if we’ll look for him for big baskets at certain times,” Johnson said. “Erick Green is a senior, he’s played a lot of basketball around here. I mean, he’s somebody that I feel comfortable with going to in that situation.”
After halftime, the Hokies maintained a solid double-digit lead, largely thanks to the inside presence of Cadarian Raines. Finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds, the redshirt-junior from Petersburg, Va. recorded his first career double-double in the win.
“I just wanted to make sure of all the rebounding; I didn’t care about scoring,” Raines said. “I only got four rebounds the last game and I wasn’t satisfied with that. I had in my head that I wanted every board that I can.”
In the first game against ETSU, the Hokies were outrebounded 39-37. Between games, there was an emphasis from Johnson to rebound the ball more aggressively.
“Coach (Johnson) was mad at us, and we just want to make sure he’s happy,” Raines said. “All day yesterday I dreamed about getting rebounds. (As a team) we were more aggressive on the glass.”
Through two games, the Hokies are meshing into a cohesive squad. Unlike the high-pressure nature of former head coach Seth Greenberg, Johnson has the Hokies in a good place.
“Coach Johnson just tells us to play ball,” Raines said. “He doesn’t want us to be robotic; he just wants us to play.”
The Hokies continue their home stand Thursday night at 7 p.m. against the VMI Keydets. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.