Erick Green paced Virginia Tech with 23 points, as the Hokies coasted by Mississippi Valley State, 70-49 on Monday night in Cassell Coliseum.
Playing just two days after a devastating 68-67 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, the Hokies experienced a bit of a hangover, struggling out of the gate.
“A win is a win,” said head coach James Johnson. “When it goes down, it’s not going to be a W with a U for ugly or a W with a P for pretty.
“We found a way to pull it out tonight. It was a tough start, a little bit of a hangover, but our guys found a way to pull it out.”
Despite being outrebounded 24-17 in the first half, Tech was able to get by in a game where the Delta Devils (0-6) had a rough night shooting the ball, as they finished just 18-of-70 from the field.
The Hokies (8-1) jumped out to an early 14-6 lead before Davon Usher hit three three-pointers in four possessions for MVSU to cut the lead to 16-15.
The Delta Devils then took a 22-20 lead with six and a half minutes remaining in the first half, due in large part to second-chance points.
“We have to get better (rebounding the ball),” Johnson said. “There was a little sweet talking at halftime. Our guys know the deal. We looked at that stat sheet, and said, ‘This is where we’re at guys. We have to do a better job with (rebounding).’”
But Tech battled back, going on a 33-8 run that spanned both halves and gave them a 53-30 lead. The Hokies never looked back.
“Coming into halftime, we all woke up. We got into each other,” Green said. “Coach didn’t have to really get into us. He said his words, but me and Jarell (Eddie) as leaders, we said what we had to say and we came out in the second half and picked it up.
After starting big man Cadarian Raines got into foul trouble early on, redshirt freshman Joey van Zegeren saw crucial minutes for Tech in the first half, notching seven points and four rebounds before the break. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
"(Joey) played big minutes for us tonight," Johnson said. "Big minutes, big plays. Erick Green drove and when the double team came, Joey was ready to make the play. Rebounded the ball for us, blocked shots. He played big for us tonight.
Sophomore guard Marquis Rankin also had a big game for the Hokies, joining Green as the only other Tech player in double figures with a career-high 10 points.
“I played with confidence,” Rankin said. “I just came out and played my hardest tonight and made plays for myself and my teammates.”
Johnson came away impressed with Rankin’s performance.
“He needed to step up and the team needed him,” he said. “He responded tonight and that was huge for our team and it was big for Marquis and his confidence. That was the Marquis that I know.”
The Hokies retake the floor against Georgia Southern in Cassell on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.