The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team defeated the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys 81-71 Saturday afternoon in Cassell Coliseum to improve to 7-0 on the season.
Erick Green set a career-high for the third time in four games by pouring in 28 points.
It was the first loss of the season for the Cowboys, who earned their No. 15 ranking by winning the Puerto Rico season tip-off, including a 20-point victory over NC State, which was ranked No. 6 at the time.
LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart led the way for the Cowboys, scoring 18 points a piece.
Green got some help from Robert Brown, who tied his season high by scoring 18 points for Virginia Tech. Jarell Eddie also added 15 points and 12 rebounds for Coach James Johnson’s squad.
The Hokies improved their record to 7-0 on the year, the best start since the 1982-1983 season. It was also the sixth time in seven games that Virginia Tech scored at least 80 points.
Things didn’t bode well for the Hokies in the early going with Green picking up two quick fouls and heading to the bench with 17:44 remaining in the first half. The Cowboys went on a quick 6-0 run immediately after Green checked out and Virginia Tech trailed 10-7 at that point.
“There wasn’t a doubt, that was just a tough spot in the game,” Eddie said. “They made their run and we weren’t scoring the ball well at that time. We knew we just had to keep our poise and continue to fight.”
Coach James Johnson continued to use Green in a limited role, protecting against a costly third foul.
Late in the first half, Oklahoma State had an eight-point lead and it looked like the Cowboys would take a significant advantage into the locker room at the half, but Robert Brown blocked a shot, recorded a steal and scored the last four points of the half to cut the Hokies halftime down to four.
The Hokies knew that they had to carry over the momentum from the end of the first half.
“I had a challenge in front of me, and I wanted to show everybody that I can play with the best. Hopefully I did that,” Green said.
Green came out firing in the second half for Virginia Tech, scoring the first 10 points for the Hokies after the half. But the Cowboys hung around, and the teams went to the first media timeout tied at 44.
Then the Hokies took control, going on a 14-6 run to take a lead of eight points that they would not relinquish. But the Cowboys hung around, getting some big baskets from Marcus Smart to keep it close.
The Cowboys came as close as one with one point following a layup by Kamari Murphy. But the Hokies responded with quick baskets from Eddie and Brown to keep the cushion at five points.
The Hokies closed out the game from the free throw line, knocking down 13 of 14 free throws over the last 3:20 of the game.
The best crowd of the year witnessed the upset, Johnson’s first win against a ranked team as a head coach.
“Big win tonight for the Hokies, big win for us to win that game after the way we started out,” Johnson said. “We showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts. This team is playing hard, they’re playing smart and they’re having a lot of fun, but they’re playing together.
"They’re playing for each other It’s been about team, it’s been about one day at a time, it’s been about hard work, it’s been about playing with confidence, it’s been about taking it one game at a time, it’s been about playing together. We showed all those things out there on the floor tonight.”
The student section was filled to capacity and made it tough on the Cowboys with great noise and energy throughout the game.
“We kind of knew coming in here that we would have the crowd behind us and they did a fantastic job supporting us and getting loud when we needed them to,” Brown said.
The Hokies travel to Morgantown next Saturday to face Big East foe West Virginia. Tip off is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN2.