DURHAM, N.C. — After Virginia Tech forward Cadarian Raines’s putback rimmed out at the end of regulation Saturday against No. 5 Duke, he sat on the floor for a few extra seconds as the Cameron Crazies reminded him about what just happened.
Raines, and a Hokies team that has been on the wrong side of close games all season, seemed to know what was coming next: The Blue Devils scored the first five points of overtime and held on for a 70-65 win.
“One or two more rolls went different this year, we’d be a whole different team,” senior guard Dorenzo Hudson lamented after the Hokies fell just short of scoring their biggest upset of the season.
Saturday marked the third time in nine days Virginia Tech (15-14, 4-10) coughed up a second-half lead against a ranked ACC foe. It was also the Hokies’ ninth loss by five points or less this year, and the sixth time in their past seven games in which a game came down to the final possession of regulation.
This one, though, felt different, especially after Coach Seth Greenberg said his team “melted” against the Blue Devils earlier this month, when Duke beat Virginia Tech by 15 in Blacksburg, Va.
In the return game, the Hokies fell behind 46-40 after a 9-0 Duke run with 9 minutes 12 seconds remaining in regulation. But just when it appeared the Blue Devils would pull away, Virginia Tech responded with a resilient 9-2 run and took the lead, 49-48, on a jumper by junior point guard Erick Green.
With senior forward Victor Davila (groin) out for a fourth straight game, Raines scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. Green extended his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 30, scoring all 16 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Hudson also finished with 16 points, including five of the Hokies’ seven points in overtime and a three-pointer that gave Virginia Tech a 58-55 lead late in regulation. And when Green went 0 for 6 from the field in the first half, freshman Dorian Finney-Smith stepped up, ending the afternoon with six points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
But it wasn’t enough, even though Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-2) were worn out from beating No. 15 Florida State in Tallahassee less than 48 hours earlier. Freshman Austin Rivers led the way with a game-high 23 points, and fellow guard Seth Curry added 19.
Rivers missed four free throws in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime, but made the one that counted to tie the score at 58 with 32 seconds left in regulation. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, went 7 for 16 from the charity stripe — including a 1-of-8 performance by Finney-Smith — the fourth consecutive game in which missed free throws have been an issue for the Hokies.
“Obviously we want a reward, but it doesn’t mean we’re not getting better,” Greenberg said.
That was the consolation Green took from another close loss. And yet he couldn’t help but look back at his own crucial mistakes that allowed another game to slip through Virginia Tech’s grasp.
First there was the missed jumper off the back rim that preceded Raines’s missed putback, when he got Duke guard Tyler Thornton (Gonzaga) to bite on a fake but didn’t drive to the basket immediately. Then came a botched, wide-open layup with nine seconds remaining in overtime and the game still in doubt.
“I wish I could have that one back,” Green said. “I don’t how that one came out.”
It’s a feeling his teammates can empathize with at this point.