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March 2, 2013

Green, VT Take Home Finale Over Clemson

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With 10:15 left in the first half, Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green couldn't help but smirk at the crowd.

He'd just made a wicked crossover dribble, putting a Clemson defender to the ground and drained a three-pointer from the top of the key. It's the type of move that Hokies fans have come to expect this season in Cassell Coliseum and it was one of the last they'll see.

On senior night, Green poured in 29 points as Virginia Tech held off a late rally to take down the Tigers 69-61. The Hokies also got 14 points from sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale and 13 points from sophomore Robert Brown.

"Honestly, when I started off the game, I hit the first shot and me and my dad were joking before the game," Green said. "I told him, if I hit the first one, it's gonna be a good night. My mom and dad told me, at the end of the day, make it one the Hokie fans will remember. I definitely think this is one some of them will remember."

Green was honored by Virginia Tech before the game as he received a framed copy of his jersey and warm embrace from coach James Johnson and associate athletic director Tom Gabbard. The crowd gave Green a standing ovation, many fans wearing green shirts in support.

"That touched me, touched me close," Johnson said. "Had chills there. I've known that kid since he was 15 years old, I've watched him grow as a basketball player, but more importantly as a young man. He's going to be successful at whatever he does after Virginia Tech."

After his move that crossed his defender up, Green added to a strong Hokies start with a jumper from the right corner that pushed their lead to 25-19 with 7:23 in the opening half. Later, Green rattled in a three-pointer that gave Virginia Tech a 31-23 lead with 2:13 to go.

Brown, who had been mired in a long slump just a few games ago, again showed why he's back out of it, as he made a nifty move in the lane for a floater and a 33-23 lead with 1:21 left. He put the exclamation mark on the half with a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give the Hokies a 36-25 advantage.

"I think that I am turning the corner, getting better, getting more confident," Brown said. "Hopefully, we can keep this going."

Collectively, Virginia Tech shot 62.5 percent from the floor in the first half, while the visiting Tigers shot just 37.5 percent. Green had 17 points, while Brown added 11 as the two combined to shoot 11-13 from the floor.

Virginia Tech kept the momentum going to open the half, building a 42-27 lead on a pair of free throws by Green. But after Clemson cut the lead to 42-33, the Hokies burned two timeouts, the second after Brown couldn't inbound the ball with 14:54 to go.

The Tigers weren't done, with a 16-4 run that trimmed the deficit to 46-43 after a slam dunk and lay-in by senior forward Devin Booker with 11:36 left. A Clemson three on the next possession left it trailing 48-46.

The lead for the Hokies went back to 57-50 after a floater from Brown with 7:21 remaining. With 3:40 to go, Green made another one of his patented moves, a crossover dribble and step-back three-pointer from the right wing to push the advantage to 60-53.

Virginia Tech's advantaged dwindled to 64-61 with just over a minute to go, but Clemson couldn't connect when it counted, missing two free throws and a jumper. Meanwhile, Barksdale connected on all four of his free throws in final seconds.

Green went to the free throw line with 9.5 seconds left, missed his first, but hit his second and checked out to a raucous ovation.

For Clemson coach Brad Brownell, tonight was further vindication why Green is the best player in the ACC.

"I've said all week that what's more remarkable about what he's done is to do it in the ACC," Brownell said. "A lot of times, a guy's averaging 25 points, who leads the country in scoring, plays in a mid-major league that I'm used to. He's physically just superb to everybody he's playing against. Erick is certainly a physically talented guy, but he's also incredibly smart, poised and confident."

He might not win the player of the year award because of the Hokies' struggles, but that doesn't weaken Green any less as an individual. And for all the team struggles this season, Green walks out of Cassell Coliseum for the final time as a winner.

"I told the guys before the game, this is one thing I really want," Green said. "I couldn't ask for anything else. Just to go out in Hokie Nation with a win, I started with a win my first career game here and I wanted to end with a win walking out. And I did that."

The Hokies move to 13-16 on the season and play at Duke at 7 p.m. Tuesday.


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