BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech's unbeaten start has come with its fair share of skeptics, understandable considering the Hokies built a 6-0 record on the strength of five victories against teams outside of the RPI Top 200, plus a home victory over Iowa, picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten.
But after an 81-71 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State on Saturday at Cassell Coliseum, the Hokies' first win over a ranked non-conference opponent in 17 years, folks around the country are starting to take notice of Virginia Tech's success.
The Hokies (7-0) snapped a 14-game losing streak against ranked non-league foes. The last such win for Tech came in 1995, when it beat Virginia in Roanoke, Va.
The Cowboys, who entered the game unbeaten with a convincing win over ACC favorite North Carolina State in pocket, certainly are believers. Saturday's loss was Oklahoma State's third to Virginia Tech in the last two seasons.
"I know everybody wants to say they're playing faster and all that," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "But I watched tape of both games last year. They were fast against us last year.
"They're just making more shots than last year, for whatever reason. They're running the same stuff, a lot of the same stuff. But they're playing with a lot of confidence. Their coach is doing a great job of developing that."
Despite spending much of the first half battling foul trouble, Virginia Tech guard Erick Green -- who entered the game tied for third in the nation in scoring -- scored a career-high 28 points in only 26 minutes.
Green, who picked up his second foul not three minutes into the game, scored the Hokies' first eight second-half points. Robert Brown tied his career high with 18 points, Jarell Eddie added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Cadarian Raines scored 10.
"Big win for the Hokies, for us to come out and win that game with the way it started out, our best player, leading scorer on the team, leading scorer in the league, picking up two fouls and having to sit on the bench," Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said.
"This team is playing hard. It's playing smart. It's playing together. They're playing for each other. It means something to them."
Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart each scored 18 points for the Cowboys (5-1).
Oklahoma State led, 36-28, after Smart's basket with 1:57 left in the first half. But the Hokies clamped down defensively and scored the final four points of the half to keep the game tight at the break.
The game remained close until Oklahoma State's offense dried up midway through the second half. The Cowboys went 5:05 without a point, allowing the Hokies to turn a 46-44 deficit into a 58-50 lead.
"We never really made the big plays," Ford said. "We were kind of chugging along. We never made the run we needed to make. They were always able to make the big basket when we had a chance to extend it a little bit."
Smart ended the Cowboys' skid with a three-point play with 8:12 left, spurring an Oklahoma State comeback.
Virginia Tech endured a drought of its own, going 3:51 without a field goal as the Cowboys chipped away at the lead. Robert Brown finally ended the dry spell on a basket with 5:25 to play that gave the Hokies a 62-59 lead.
Marshall Wood hit two free throws with 2:39 left to give the Hokies a 69-63 lead, but the Cowboys weren't done.
Markel Brown knocked down a three-pointer with 2:22 left, and after Robert Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one, Oklahoma State had the ball in a one-possession game.
But Markel Brown lost the ball in traffic and Green came up with it, and after being fouled at the rim, he hit two free throws to extend the lead to 71-66.
"I think people can now see we can play with anybody," Green said. "Now we've just got to keep it up. Consistency is the key. Everything from here on out is going to be a dogfight."
NOTES: This was first of back-to-back games against Big 12 opponents for the Hokies, who will travel to West Virginia on Dec. 8. ... Virginia Tech's Jarell Eddie has hit a three-pointer in an ACC-best 18 consecutive games. ... Oklahoma State center Philip Jurick was hit in the mouth in practice on Wednesday, opening a cut that required 12 stitches to close, but he was in the starting lineup. ... Saturday's game was Oklahoma State's only true road game of the non-conference season. The Cowboys won three games, including the championship, at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.