Earlier this week, Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg told reporters that “besides one or two hiccups, we’ve had an opportunity to win or lose almost every game we’ve played this season.” Well, you can add Tuesday night’s 61-59 loss to No. 25 Virginia to that list of close games the Hokies haven’t been able to finish off this year.
Virginia Tech is now 5-8 in games decided by four points or less, and for the fifth time in the past six contests the Hokies saw their fate determined on the final possession. Turns out, though, Virginia Tech’s penchant for down-to-the-wire affairs has reached historic proportions.
The Hokies have now played more games decided by four points or less than they ever have before under Greenberg. In fact, the last time Virginia Tech played more than 13 games of this nature was all the way back in 1983-84.
Greenberg, meanwhile, is now 8-14 over the past two seasons in such games, and 39-43 overall during his nine-year tenure in Blacksburg. The one good thing about being involved in so many close games this season is that Virginia Tech sits just one win away from tying Greenberg’s record of six victories by four points or less set back in 2006-07.
On Tuesday night, Virginia Tech got just one field goal over the final 13 minutes of the game and once again saw its two leading scorers, junior Erick Green and Dorenzo Hudson, miss free throws down the stretch, repeating the sort of lapses that cost the Hokies a win at Florida State last week.
“We played with great spacing and pace for a majority of the game,” Greenberg said. “We had that one stretch where quite honestly we had too many empty possessions. . . . We’re one of the leading free throw-shooting teams in the league. Guys miss free throws.”
But if there was a rhyme or rhythm to the Hokies’ struggles in crunch time this year, perhaps they wouldn’t be in this situation, sitting at 4-9 in ACC play and stuck in ninth place within the conference.
Before that late collapse to the Seminoles, Virginia Tech trailed at halftime in five of its first six losses by four points or less. And it was only Saturday that Hudson gave Hokies fans an enduring image from this tough season when he hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Hokies past Georgia Tech.
At various times this season Greenberg has compared this group to his team from 2005-06, because those Hokies lost quite a few close games only to come back the next year and qualify for the NCAA tournament. It’s also the only Virginia Tech team to win less than than seven ACC games, a distinction this year’s Hokies could add to unless they go undefeated in their final three games of the regular season.
Back in 2005-06, though, Virginia Tech was actually worse in close games than it is this season. The Hokies went 2-8 in games decided by four points or less, easily the worst mark since Greenberg arrived on campus ahead of the 2003-04 season.
The Hokies improved to 6-4 in 2006-07, the only year Greenberg has taken Virginia Tech to the NCAA tournament, and the coach is hoping to see signs of similar improvement as the Hokies finish out a season that, for the most part, hasn’t gone according to plan as the clock winds down.
“Hopefully, we can close out some games down the stretch,” said Greenberg at the end of his postgame news conference.