Short-handed Hokies are battling fatigue.
Short-handed Hokies battle an increasingly unforgiving schedule
blacksburg, va. — Virginia Tech sophomore Erick Green, the reigning ACC player of the week, realizes he’s in the midst of a breakout year. Sometimes, though, he thinks about all the lifestyle changes he’s made now that he’s getting more playing time than ever before.
Green tries to be in bed before midnight these days, so he’s stopped playing video games into the wee hours. His diet has transformed from fried chicken and McDonald’s to pastas and salads. Perhaps the most drastic change is that he’s been forced to give up his favorite drink, in favor of staying hydrated with only water and Gatorade.
“I used to love Coke,” Green said. “But I can’t do stuff like that anymore.”
Like many of his teammates, Green has had to stay in top shape as best he can with Virginia Tech’s rotation whittled down to just eight scholarship players because of injuries. All five of the Hokies’ starters are averaging career highs in minutes per game.
For the most part, Virginia Tech avoided confronting its lack of depth as the team ran off a recent stretch of nine wins in 10 games. But it became an issue in Tuesday night’s 72-57 loss at Georgia Tech, the Hokies’ third game in six nights.
Four of Virginia Tech’s five starters played more than 35 minutes— senior Malcolm Delaney never left the court — and Coach Seth Greenberg used just one player off his bench for longer than one minute of game time. As a result, Georgia Tech’s bench outscored the Hokies’, 35-2.
On Sunday, Virginia Tech will try to get a measure of redemption when Miami visits for a pivotal game both likely need to win if either hopes to make the NCAA tournament this year. But perhaps more ominous for these depleted Hokies is that it starts another stretch of three games in the span of one week. Virginia Tech will also play road games at North Carolina State on Wednesday and at Boston College on Saturday.
Following the loss to Georgia Tech, Greenberg played down any impact fatigue had on the Hokies’ second-half performance. Even though Virginia Tech had no field goals in the final 6 minutes 6 seconds and shot just 24 percent after halftime, Greenberg called such talk an “excuse” because “ these are world-class athletes.”
But this week, Greenberg made a call to the ACC’s office to comment on the league’s scheduling. The Hokies have played games that begin at 9 p.m. in three consecutive weeks, in addition to two straight weeks in which they played on the road Thursday night and then returned home for a Saturday evening matchup.
“I don’t think anyone should play 9 o’clock games two weeks in a row when you have a class the next day,” Greenberg said. “It’s really hard. It’s not fair to the kids, and we’ve had three in a row. You get back at 3 o’clock in the morning. I understand television is important, but they’ve got to find a way to balance that because I don’t think it’s healthy for the student-athlete.”
Part of the problem Tuesday night was that two of the Hokies’ three primary substitutes — freshmen Jarell Eddie and Tyrone Garland — were being disciplined for “a failure to meet my academic expectations,” Greenberg said Thursday.
Eddie appeared for just one minute when senior Jeff Allen got into foul trouble, and Garland didn’t play at all. Though each has shown flashes of individual talent throughout the season, Eddie has been held scoreless in eight games, while Garland has notched six scoreless contests. Sophomore Manny Atkins has been the bench’s most consistent performer, averaging 7.3 points per game since Dec. 12.
Virginia Tech’s reserves are averaging 18 points in the Hokies’ 13 victories. In the Hokies’ six losses, though, they’ve averaged just seven points per game.
Greenberg says he’s comfortable with the way his bench has performed, but admitted he’s had to get creative with how he uses his reserves. He often makes substitutions during a dead ball just before a television timeout to buy his starters some extra rest.
Virginia Tech’s players are trying to do the same thing off the court. Senior Terrell Bell, like Green, said he goes to bed earlier now, and during the day he tries to stay off his feet as much as possible, fitting in naps whenever he can.
“With the number of guys we got,” Bell said. “you just gotta keep playing.”