Short-handed Hok­ies are bat­tling fa­tigue.

Short-handed Hok­ies bat­tle an in­creas­ingly un­for­giv­ing sched­ule

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MARK GIANNOTTO gi­an­not­tom@wash­post.com

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.”

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