For the seventh time in eight games Thursday night, Virginia Tech saw its fate come down to the final possession. And as has been the case more often than not this year, the Hokies weren’t able to execute when it counted most in a 58-56 loss at Clemson.
But the specifics of this defeat – sophomore Cadarian Raines missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining and the Hokies went without a field goal over the final 3:40 – are a moot point considering Virginia Tech has done something no other team in school history has accomplished.
The Hokies have now played six straight games decided in overtime or by two points or less, a streak that, upon review of the program’s media guide, is unmatched in the 103-year history of Virginia Tech basketball. It’s a fitting distinction for a team that has now seen 13 of its ACC games – and 15 overall – decided by five points or less this year.
Only the 1983-84 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team has been involved in more close games, going 8-8 in contests decided by five points or less. That squad, coincidentally, is the only other in program history with a comparable streak. Those Hokies lost four straight games, and six of seven, in overtime or by two points or less.
This season, though, Virginia Tech is now 5-10 in its close games after Thursday night and it begged the question of whether it’s just a matter of waiting until next year to see if these Hokies can figure out how to consistently come through in the clutch.
“We still got this year, we still got a couple games left. We don’t know, we could turn this thing around, make a little run in the ACC tournament,” said point guard Erick Green, who had just eight points Thursday to end his 30-game streak of finishing in double figures. “Hopefully next year guys got another year under their belt, and these close games will turn into some wins. You never know, the same thing could happen next year.”
When asked what he hopes his teammates take from all the close losses this year, Green added: “Every game is going to come down to the wire. Everything matters.”
This is the dilemma facing Virginia Tech as it prepares for senior night Sunday against N.C. State. Though they moved into a three-way tie with Wake Forest and Boston College for second-to-last place in the ACC because of their fourth loss in five games, the Hokies are performing better – except in the waning moments.
So it’s only natural to wonder what all of these narrow defeats has done to the psyche of this young team.
“I never was counting, but I can’t even count how many games when it came down to the last second,” sophomore Jarell Eddie said. “It’s real tough emotionally, but we’re gonna have to keep playing.”
The drama Sunday will come during warmups for a change, as it is uncertain whether senior Victor Davila will be able to play in his final game at Cassell Coliseum. The forward missed his fifth straight game Thursday night because of a groin injury, and Coach Seth Greenberg said Davila’s injury hasn’t responded to a second steroid injection that was administered earlier this week.
But the coach hasn’t ruled out allowing Davila to pull a Willis Reed-type move and appear for a couple possessions at the start of the game because it is his last one in front of the home crowd.
Perhaps more significant for the program is that the Hokies (15-15, 4-11) must win at least one more game or risk finishing with a below-.500 record for just the second time under Greenberg. Virginia Tech’s potential first-round opponent in next week’s ACC tournament is unclear at this juncture because there is also a four-way tie for fourth place in the conference after Clemson’s win and Virginia’s collapse against Florida State.
“We’re so crazy, we think we can make a deep run in the ACC tournament,” Greenberg said. “If we’re in position to win seven of the past eight . . . why can’t we go and win games in the ACC tournament? It starts by trying to win the game on Sunday.”