By David Teel
3:58 PM EST, January 17, 2013
During Virginia Tech’s 7-0 start this basketball season, Robert Brown was the Hokies’ second-best player. His complementary scoring and wise shot selection eased the pressure on backcourt mate Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer.
Even in Tech’s first loss, at West Virginia, Brown played well, scoring a career-high 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting. So through eight games, Brown was averaging 14.4 points on 45.2-percent shooting, 37.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Brown’s subsequent struggles are legion and include a bout with the flu and a brutal shooting slump. But coach James Johnson hopes two clutch overtime baskets at Georgia Tech on Saturday and improved health return Brown to form.
“For him to gut it out and play the way he did (against Georgia Tech), it says a lot for the young man,” Johnson said. “Having him on the floor gives us another ballhandler and a guy that can attack the basket. ...
“As you saw in overtime, he is a threat to score the basketball. Those are big plays he made, even the assists. When he's on the floor, he's getting three and four assists and making guys around him better, even when his shot is not going down. So to have him out on the floor and have him back is big for this team.”
A 6-foot-5 sophomore, Brown missed Virginia Tech’s Jan. 9 home loss to Boston College with the flu, and he almost missed the trip to Georgia Tech. Marquis Rankin started in his place against the Eagles and Yellow Jackets, and in the latter game, Brown missed his first nine shots.
But with the Hokies leading 62-60 in overtime, Brown made a jumper with 1:13 remaining. With 28 seconds left, his layup gave Virginia Tech a 66-63 edge, after which the Hokies converted 4-of-4 free throws, two each by Green and Jarell Eddie, to win 70-65.
“Those were huge plays for our team,” Johnson said. “The fact that he was able to play after being sent home one day with over a 100 degree temperature and then not practice for two days. I didn't know how much we were going to get out of him anyway. And then 30 seconds into the game, I've got to go to him because of an injury to Marquis Rankin.”
Johnson said Thursday that while players such as Joey van Zegeren, Cadarian Raines and Rankin are battling the flu, Brown is close to 100 percent. He added that Brown needs to “attack the rim a little more … as opposed to (settling) for the 3-point shot.”
Recent numbers hammer that point. In Brown’s most recent seven games, he’s missed 22-of-24 attempts from beyond the arc. Avert your eyes if you’d like to avoid the grim math, but that’s 8.3 percent accuracy.
Brown’s recent shooting inside the arc, 29.5 percent, is discouraging, as well. He’s averaging 6.3 points per game in his last seven outings, .3 below his norm as a freshman.
But perhaps the shots at Georgia Tech will energize him and the Hokies (10-6, 1-2 ACC), who desperately need consistent scoring options other than Green (24.8 points per game) and Eddie (14.3 points per game).
“Aw, man, it’s big,” Green said Wednesday of Brown’s scoring. “He’s getting better and better each day in practice. He’s just got to stay confident. It’s big when he hits shots like that because now everyone (can’t) swarm on me.”
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