BLACKSBURG — The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team is ranked No. 15 in the nation, beat North Carolina State by 20 points and boasts a lineup that includes two projected first-round NBA draft picks.
Its opponent Saturday had not defeated a ranked nonleague foe in 17 years.
But Virginia Tech knocked off the Cowboys 81-71 in front of 7,552 raucous fans at Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies, who are 7-0 for the first time since the 1982-83 season, had lost 14 straight games to ranked nonconference teams.
“If you come into Cassell, we’re going to be pretty difficult to beat,” said forward Jarell Eddie, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds. “Beating those guys definitely is a big confidence booster for us.
“We’re the real deal. … I’m just really excited.”
The jubilant Hokies hugged each other after recording their first victory over a ranked nonleague foe since a December 1995 win over No. 22 Virginia at the Roanoke Civic Center.
“That was a great win,” rookie coach James Johnson said of Saturday’s victory.
Tech point guard Erick Green, who got in early foul trouble, scored a career-high 28 points and snared seven rebounds in just 26 minutes.
“He’s one of the best point guards in the country,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “We’ve got one of the top five or so in the country and I think he’s one of the top five.”
Green’s counterpart on the Cowboys (5-1), freshman Marcus Smart, had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. But Smart, rated the No. 13 prospect in the 2013 NBA draft by ESPN, was just 5-of-15 from the field.
“I had a challenge in front of me,” Green said. “I wanted to show everybody that I could play with the best.”
Green went to the bench when he was called for his second foul less than three minutes into the game. The Cowboys then outscored Tech 6-0, prompting Johnson to put Green back in the game.
During Green’s four stints on the bench in the first half, OSU outscored Tech 19-7. The Hokies trailed at halftime (36-32) for the first time this season.
“That’s a situation that this team hadn’t seen — we haven’t played with Erick … sitting over there beside me,” Johnson said.
Green went on a personal 8-0 run to give Tech a 40-39 lead with 17:40 to go.
His jumper with 16:53 left, which tied the score at 42, gave him 20 points and was his final basket of the game. His final eight points came on free throws in the final two minutes.
Down 46-44, the Hokies went on a 14-4 run to grab a 58-50 lead with 9:14 to go. They led the rest of the way. Green was on the court for the run but did not score during it.
Eddie had five points and Robert Brown (18 points) had four points in the run.
“Not every time does Erick need to score to kind of get us going,” Brown said.
The Hokies shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to OSU’s 37.5 percent.
“They took us off the dribble too much,” Ford said. “We kept them out of transition in the first half. … The second half, we did not.
“Us missing as many shots as we did led to some shots for them.”
OSU sophomore forward Le’Bryan Nash, projected to be the No. 23 pick in the 2013 NBA draft by ESPN, had 18 points but was just 8-of-18 from the field.
The Hokies, who beat the Cowboys for the fourth time in three seasons, outrebounded OSU 41-31.
Tech was 27-of-33 from the free-throw line to OSU’s 11-of-15.
“If you’re not going to make shots, … then you better keep the other team off the free-throw line and you better rebound,” Ford said. “We didn’t do a very good job on either one.”
Tech scored 49 points in the second half.
“They kind of slowed us up in the first half and we played at their pace,” Green said. “Second half, we turned it around.”
OSU cut the lead to 62-61 with 4:59 left, but Eddie and Brown answered with back-to-back layups. OSU cut the deficit to 66-63, but freshman Marshall Wood made three of four free throws for a 69-63 cushion. OSU cut the lead to 69-66, but Green answered with two free throws for a 71-66 lead with 1:16 to go.