Guarding Green

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Virginia Tech's Erick Green had the ball as the clock ticked down in a tie ball game on Saturday. Reggie Bullock utilized his length to prevent a drive, forcing Green to take a tough fallaway jumper that fell short. It was that kind of day for the nation's leading scorer.

Green took the potential game-winner a foot inside the 3-point line on the left wing with 4.5 seconds left.

"I've never really been in position to guard a scorer on the last possession of a game," Bullock told reporters following the game. "I felt like by me being a leader of this team, [when] my coach asked me if I wanted to guard him the last two minutes of the game, I said yes. He believed in me, so I believed in myself to be able to make the play for my team and not let him get a good shot at it."

Bullock's defense on the final play of regulation forced an air ball, and while he didn't get a finger on the ball, his hand forced Green to shoot at a higher trajectory than he wanted.

As critical as that play was in determining the outcome – UNC would go on to win 72-60 in overtime – Green's contested misfire was one of 14 misses at the Smith Center.

The senior guard entered Saturday's game leading the country in scoring at 25.5 points per game, including a 27.4-points-per-game mark in ACC play, on 49.8 percent shooting.

His lowest point total in ACC play had been 22 points against Wake Forest. That changed on Saturday as UNC held Green to 16 points, marking just the second time in 21 games this season that he's been held under 20 points.

Roy Williams joked on Friday that he would have to play a box-and-one against Green, with four guys on him and one guarding the other four Hokies. As it turned out, he wasn't far from the truth.

Dexter Strickland assumed the bulk of the defensive responsibility of guarding Green, although Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald joined Bullock in taking turns.

"We tried to keep fresh guys on him," Williams said. "Nothing works against him because he's really, really good. They set a lot of screens and they're legal screens, they're just hard to get through."

The ability to rotate players allowed for more effort defensively while allowing for more energy on the offensive end.

"If you have to guard him for more than three or four minutes in a row, you're going to be dead tired because he does a great job in working to get open," Paige said. "You can't rest when you're guarding him… We have some good perimeter defenders and we kept giving him different looks and active legs and that really helped out."

Williams indicated everybody had to be aware of Green, and that included UNC's post players who were responsible for hedging on screens as the guard worked off them.

"We just did a great job as a team in containing him and forcing him to make tough shots," Strickland said.

Green scored eight points in both halves, but needed 14 shots in the second half and overtime to reach that total. His 33.3 percent shooting effort marks the third time this season that he's shot under 40 percent from the floor.

"I feel good about the job we did, but he is hard to guard," Williams said. "I think he's an elite player."

 

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