Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hokie Basketball Feature - 2/28/06

"Spirited" practice provides needed grit
March 1st, 2006
by Charles R. Barrineau, Senior Staff Writer

It's safe to say that other than the result, the biggest difference between Wednesday's University of Miami game and the Florida State University contest Saturday was effort.

After the team's 70-59 road loss to Miami on Feb. 22, Tech head coach Seth Greenberg indicated an effort would be made to get the intensity back, beginning with the following day's practice.

"Thursday -- it was more about who we wanted to be," said Greenberg. "Thursday's practice was more about being a team and getting back to a culture and not feeling sorry for ourselves. The film session was pretty graphic, but the practice was good."

Redshirt junior guard Markus Sailes said expectations were set in practice.

"A lot of calling you out if you weren't practicing hard -- that's what it was," said Sailes. "We've got a new rule now, if you're not practicing hard, you're not going to play that much ... that's what it should be."

Junior guard Zabian Dowdell even went as far as to call it among his toughest he ever experienced at Tech.

"That ranks at the top," said Dowdell. "Coach was really pissed at the effort that we gave, and I think the guys came in and worked hard and had the mindset that they were going to do better next game."

Difficult practices instill toughness in a team. Thursday's practice helped the Hokies withstand runs by the Seminoles in the second half.

"I think the thing I'm most proud of is every time they tried to break our spirit and make a big play and gain momentum, we wouldn't allow them to break our spirit," Greenberg said.

"I'm sure, going into the game, (Florida State) felt that if they could just hang around long enough and get a run, with everything these guys have been through and coming (after) a very tough game at Miami and struggling (like) we have, that eventually we would break, (but) we went the other way with it. They tried to break our spirit and we kind of put our arms around the game and found a way to win. That's probably what I'm most proud of," Greenberg said.

The most important byproduct of their effort was that the Hokies were able to avoid falling victim to the sunshine sweep.

"I came into the game, I said 'Man, I can't let the Sunshine State sweep me,' " Dowdell said. "I think we did a great job, me and Jamon, coming out and being aggressive on the offensive end and defensive end, and we came out with the win."

The win was also big for Jamon Gordon, a junior guard and Jacksonville, Fla., native.

"Yeah, it means a lot for me because I know a lot of people that go to Florida State (and) I know a lot of players on the team," Gordon said. "It kind of means a lot for me because it's right around the corner from Jacksonville."

Bigger than avoiding the Sunshine Sweep, the win puts the Hokies in much better postseason position with the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament just around the corner.

"It's real big," said sophomore forward Deron Washington. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make any postseason play, so we're just still reaching for that goal, just playing as hard as we can and doing whatever we can to win."

Many players on the team are aware of the postseason implications of their upcoming games.

"Oh yeah (we're aware)," Sailes said. "We're not giving up on this season. We feel that there's still a lot of basketball to be played. We're staying positive, feeling that anything can happen, so we're just going out there and playing hard and letting the chips fall where they may."

The Hokies look to lock up postseason eligibility at 7 p.m. Wednesday as they host the Clemson University Tigers, a team they've already beaten this season. With a win on Wednesday, the Hokies would avoid the need for a difficult win at Boston College to become eligible for postseason play.

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