BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech entered its regular season finale against North Carolina State having played six straight games that had been decided in overtime or by two points or fewer, the longest such streak in team history.
But the Hokies didn’t need to worry about those sorts of dramatics Sunday night. After showing signs of progress in recent weeks, Virginia Tech was sluggish and sloppy in a 70-58 loss to North Carolina State that left the Hokies with a sub-.500 regular season record for just the second time under Coach Seth Greenberg.
It was Virginia Tech’s fifth defeat in six games, and means the Hokies (15-16, 4-12) will enter this week’s ACC tournament in a four-way tie for last place in the conference standings. Virginia Tech’s four league wins are tied for the fewest they’ve had since joining the ACC before the 2004-05 season. The Hokies will be the No. 10 seed and take on Clemson Thursday in Atlanta.
“I don’t know if our emotional gas tank was on empty after three straight weeks of playing every single possession to the last play of the game. At least I hope that’s what it was,” Greenberg said during the opening statement of his postgame news conference. “We didn’t play well.”
Though the Hokies never led during the final 32 minutes of the contest, they did mount a charge midway through the second half. After falling behind by 11 and watching starting forward Jarell Eddie foul out with 11 minutes 39 seconds remaining, Virginia Tech worked its way back into the game with a 12-5 surge.
Point guard Erick Green (12 points, five assists) was benched to begin the second half because, he said, “I guess [Greenberg] kind of saw the frustration in my face.” But when Green got his first field goal of the game with 10:31 to go, the Hokies were down 51-47. Things unraveled from there.
When North Carolina State switched to a zone defense, Virginia Tech didn’t get another field goal for nearly six minutes. The Wolfpack then went on an 11-2 run that forward C.J. Leslie (18 points, 11 rebounds) punctuated with a powerful slam dunk.
“We got a couple good shots, we missed them and then we went away from our offense,” said freshman Dorian Finney-Smith, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Cadarian Raines led the Hokies with 15 points and five rebounds. But Virginia Tech shot just 36.7 percent from the floor, got outrebounded, 40-25, and was outscored, 19-0, in fast-break points. The Hokies also failed to capitalize on North Carolina State’s 18 turnovers.
Virginia Tech’s senior night began on a bittersweet note since forward Victor Davila was unable to play in his final home game because of a groin injury that forced him to miss a sixth consecutive contest. The stands at Cassell Coliseum, meanwhile, were half full because students are on spring break.
The Hokies’ performance early on reflected the atmosphere. Despite 10 turnovers before halftime, North Carolina State (20-11, 9-7) went on a 16-2 run midway through the first half as Virginia Tech struggled to contain Leslie.
North Carolina State’s lead soon reached double digits when junior Scott Wood got free for three three-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points. The Wolfpack shot 56 percent from the field in the first half.
But the Hokies managed to close the deficit to five just before halftime when Raines got a three-point play after Leslie committed a goaltending violation. That momentum would be short-lived, though.
Virginia Tech freshman Marquis Rankin threw the ball directly to the Wolfpack’s C.J. Williams on the final possession of the first half, and Williams’s fast-break lay-in just before the buzzer had Coach Seth Greenberg cringing in disgust as he left the floor.