GREENSBORO, N.C. — UNC Greensboro is hardly the best men’s basketball team in the state of North Carolina.
But it gave Virginia Tech plenty of trouble in the second half Monday.
The Hokies survived their first road game of the season, rallying to beat the Spartans 96-87 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“Whoa, that was a dogfight,” said Erick Green, who had a career-high 26 points for Tech.
Tech, off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2004-05 season, blew a 14-point second-half lead. The Hokies trailed in the second half for the first time this season.
“We grew up tonight,” Hokies coach James Johnson said. “We took a step forward. We haven’t seen adversity like that in the three previous games and we’re on the road, … and for those guys to keep their composure and keep fighting and come out of here with the win and execute down the stretch, … I’m pretty pleased.”
Tech led 65-51 with 14:31 to go. But UNCG (1-3), which has yet to beat a Division I foe this season, went on a 20-6 run to tie the score at 71 with 7:54 to go.
The Spartans sank four of their 11 3-pointers during their run.
“Definitely some things we didn’t do well — rebound and taking them out of transition,” said Green, whose team was hurt in the game by UNCG’s 12 offensive rebounds.
Green and Jarell Eddie then combined for 24 of Tech’s final 25 points.
Eddie, who had a career-high 28 points, scored to give Tech a 73-71 lead.
Trevis Simpson (25 points) went on a personal 6-0 run to give UNCG a 77-73 lead with 6:05 to go.
“We didn’t panic,” Green said. “I was nervous before coming to the game. We’ve never been in a tight game. … I didn’t know when adversity would hit how we would act, but we did a great job.”
The Hokies’ final 23 points included 18 free throws and two baskets.
Green had 10 points in a 14-1 run that gave Tech an 87-78 lead with 1:22 to go.
“Me and Jarell, as leaders, we had to take over the game,” Green said. “We hit our free throws and got the team together and they rallied around us.
“I told the team — we [gathered] around — that we weren’t going to lose this game.”
Green said he tweaked his ankle when he stepped on a UNCG player’s foot late in the game. But he did not leave the game.
Green made a jumper in the lane to cut the lead to 77-75. After Robert Brown made one of two free throws, Green made four free throws.
Eddie, who was 5-of-5 from 3-point range, sank a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 83-77 with 2:52 to go.
“Big-time shots — I thought Erick Green hit a big one in the middle of the lane. … Eddie hit a huge one from it felt like 35 feet,” said UNCG coach Wes Miller, whose team was the preseason pick to win the Southern Conference’s North Division.
After UNCG cut the lead to 89-85, Eddie made one of two free throws with 50.7 seconds left.
After UNCG’s Derrell Armstrong (23 points) missed a 3-pointer, Tech’s Marshall Wood missed two free throws.
After Nicholas Paulos missed a 3-pointer, Eddie got the rebound and made two free throws for a 92-85 cushion. After Simpson missed a 3-pointer, Eddie got the rebound and made two more free throws for a 94-85 lead with 17.8 seconds left.
The 96 points were the most by the Hokies in a road game since a 101-73 win at Hawaii-Hilo in the 1996 Big Island Invitational.
The Hokies were 14-of-22 from 3-point range, with Brown and walk-on Will Johnston each sinking three. The 14 3-pointers were two shy of tying the Tech single-game mark.
It was the third time this season Tech reached double figures in 3-pointers.
“Coach tells us to take the first good available shot and a lot of the time that’s a 3,” Eddie said.
The Hokies hurt themselves with 14 turnovers.
“Dribbling the ball off our foot and stepping on the line and travels, things like that, we’ve got to tighten those things up,” Johnson said.
The Hokies’ first four foes are a combined 2-12, including 0-12 against Division I competition. Next up is a Friday visit from Appalachian State (1-2), which is 0-2 against Division I foes.
But Iowa (4-0) will visit Nov. 27, followed by No. 20 Oklahoma State (4-0) on Dec. 1.
“This team has got to get better,” Johnson said.
Green was 16 of 16 from the free-throw line.