ATLANTA — The final game of Virginia Tech’s season played out as so many had before it. There were plenty of misguided offensive possessions that ended in a missed shot or an unforced turnover. There was a sharp enough defensive focus to keep the Hokies in contention. And there was a close final score that left Coach Seth Greenberg exasperated.
Second-seeded Duke defeated 10th-seeded Virginia Tech, 60-56, Friday night in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. It marked the 17th time this season the Hokies (16-17) played a game decided by five points or fewer and the 11th time they’d come out on the short end of those contests. Friday’s result in no way altered the narrative of Virginia Tech’s first losing season since 2006.
And yet, Greenberg’s postgame news conference turned into a referendum of sorts on the job he has done in his nine years at the helm in Blacksburg. When asked to assess his program in light of the fact Virginia Tech has failed to reach the NCAA tournament in eight of those nine seasons, Greenberg offered a defiant response.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said before listing some of his team’s various accolades during his tenure. “If you don’t think that’s good, that’s your problem.”
Two minutes later — and 30 seconds into a response to an unrelated query — Greenberg returned to the earlier challenge.
“Getting back to that question before, what we’ve done the last four years, all right, it’s pretty remarkable. Pretty remarkable,” Greenberg said. “Just as remarkable [as] that we weren’t in the tournament any of those years. What we did the last four years, if you want to define those kids careers and say it’s a failure, that’s your problem.
“Because what those kids accomplished, what they’ve built at a basketball program where there was not a basketball program, it’s pretty special. Forget about me; don’t take anything away from those kids.”
On Friday, Greenberg’s players stuck to the game plan and made Duke guard Tyler Thornton — a defensive specialist who entered the night having not attempted more than six shots in a game this season — beat them. Thornton attempted a team-high 16 shots and finished with 13 points.
Duke (27-5) shot less than 30 percent in the second half and 19.2 percent from three-point range on the night, but Virginia Tech never could draw even.
“I feel like we just needed one burst to kind of get us over that hump,” said fifth-year senior guard Dorenzo Hudson, who finished with 16 points.
Virginia Tech shot 30.2 percent from the field on the night and was buoyed offensively by making half its three-point attempts (6 of 12).
When the game ended, Greenberg and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski had a lengthy exchange at mid-court. Greenberg said later Krzyzewski had offered encouragement “about our team and what we’re doing.”
“Seth has done a great job of having his kids up all the time in spite of more close games and a great percentage of them have been losses,” Krzyzewski said in the opening comments of his own news conference. “To keep his team into it like they were yesterday and again today is really a testimony to what a good coach is all about.”