BLACKSBURG — The Georgia Southern men’s basketball team wasn’t able to beat Elon or Samford this season.
In fact, it entered Saturday’s game having beaten only one Division I foe all season.
But the Eagles upset Virginia Tech 78-73 at Cassell Coliseum.
“We’re a little hurt,” said Tech forward Jarell Eddie, who had 21 points but was 6 of 19 from the field. “We [weren’t] expecting to lose that game at all, especially at home.”
The Hokies (8-2) were upset by a Southern Conference squad for the first time since a 2002 loss to Wofford.
The Eagles (4-5), who led from the opening basket, knocked off a team from a major conference for the first time in 20 years.
“The first thing I’m going to take from it is never underestimate your opponent,” said Tech point guard Erick Green, who had 28 points. “Just because we were [8-1] coming in here and thinking, ‘They’re 3-5,’ I bet guys were probably like, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ ”
This was Tech’s most humbling defeat since a 2007 loss at Colonial Athletic Association member Old Dominion. It was Tech’s most humbling home defeat since a 2005 loss to Mid-American Conference member Bowling Green.
“It hurts,” Green said. “When you don’t play 40 minutes of basketball, that’s what happens. We came out flat the first half.
“They just outplayed us. … A loss that we shouldn’t have had.”
The Eagles, who had been 0-5 against Tech, beat an ACC foe for the first time in their history.
“It’s huge,” said C.J. Reed, who had 22 points and five 3-pointers for the Eagles. “We competed for 40 minutes; we hadn’t done that all this year.”
Since upsetting then-No. 15 Oklahoma State, the Hokies have lost two of three games.
“They’ve got to learn how to play with kind of a target on their back,” rookie coach James Johnson said. “You can’t just show up.”
The Hokies shot 39.7 percent from the field, including 29 percent in the first half. They were 6 of 27 from 3-point range (22.2 percent), including 0 of 9 in the first half.
“We had wide-open looks,” said Green, who was 0 of 4 from 3-point range.
But Tech is relying too much on 3-pointers, said Green.
“We’ve got to start going to the basket,” Green said. “We’ve got to get to the basket, draw fouls, dump down.”
Georgia Southern, which had been a poor rebounding team this season, outrebounded Tech 41-38.
“We’ve just got to really work on our defensive rebounding and holding teams to one shot,” Eddie said.
Georgia Southern was 11 of 26 from 3-point range, including 7 of 14 in the first half.
“We don’t take a lot of wild, transition 3s, but we get to the paint and got kick-outs, and that’s why we shoot a very high percentage in 3s,” GSU coach Charlton Young said.
“They take a lot of quick 3s.”
Cleon Roberts had 20 points and four 3-pointers for the Eagles.
Green, Eddie and C.J. Barksdale (10 points) combined for 23 baskets, but the rest of the Hokies combined for just four.
Robert Brown, who was 2 of 9 from the field in Monday’s win over Mississippi Valley State, was 1 of 7 from the field. Johnson said he has the flu.
Center Cadarian Raines, who was 0 of 4 from the field Monday, had no points in 12 minutes Saturday.
“We need them to step up,” Green said of Brown and Raines. “We’ve got to get their heads right.”
The Hokies trailed 35-27 at halftime. They fell behind 42-27 with 18:10 to go.
Down 64-48 with 7:55 left, Tech used pressure defense to get back in the game. Eddie made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 74-71 with 54.3 seconds to go.
But Green missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score with 23 seconds left.
“Coach told me to shoot the 3,” Green said. “I thought, honestly, it was in. A lesson learned — next time, go to the basket.”
This game was part of the Las Vegas Classic, but it does not affect the Las Vegas portion of the event. Tech will still play Bradley on Saturday and either Colorado State or Portland the following night.
There was a pregame moment of silence in memory of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims.