BLACKSBURG – Robert Brown’s short jumper in front of the goal with 12.3 seconds remaining lifted Virginia Tech to a 66-65 ACC victory over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum.
The win marked Tech’s second in a row after the Hokies had dropped four straight. Tech is now 11-6 overall on the season, 2-2 in the ACC. Wake Forest, which lost to the Hokies for the sixth time in the past seven meetings, fell to 9-8 overall, 2-3 in the ACC.
Brown, who had made one of his previously 10 attempts, had the ball with the shot clock winding down before driving to the lane. He put up a short jumper in front of the rim and was fouled by Wake Forest’s Devin Thomas. He missed the free throw.
“Coach (James Johnson) always tells me to be aggressive regardless of whether I’m hitting or not,” Brown said. “It was an open shot that he let me take, and I took the first good shot we had. They trapped Erick (Green), so the lane was open. I just made a play.”
“He’s my guy,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “I’ve got to go with him. There are times when I’m going to take him out and let him relax a little bit. I’m going to talk to him and tell him to let the game come to him. But he’s my guy. I’ve got full confidence in him. No doubt about it.”
The Hokies survived a harrowing final 10 seconds. Wake Forest called a timeout with 8.8 seconds left to set up a final play, and guard C.J. Harris missed a contested jumper in the lane with 3 seconds remaining. Then Wake Forest forward Tyler Cavanaugh missed the put back. Virginia Tech’s Jarell Eddie got the rebound as time expired.
The Hokies managed to win despite not getting a point from Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer at 24.8 points per game coming in, in the final 3:42. Eddie’s 3-pointer with 1:39 left tied the game at 62, and after a Wake Forest turnover, Virginia Tech’s Marquis Rankin hit a layup with 45 seconds left to give the Hokies a 64-62 lead. The basket was Rankin’s only one of the game.
Wake Forest answered on a 3-pointer by Travis McKie with 30 seconds remaining. Virginia Tech then called a timeout with 24 seconds left, one that eventually led to Brown’s basket.
Brown came into the game mired in a shooting slump, having made just seven of his past 36 attempts before that shot.
“It felt good to step and make a play for my teammates,” Brown said. “Getting this win was a big win for us in the ACC and for our confidence. We’ve got two in a row (ACC wins), and we’re going to try to keep building on that.”
Green led the Hokies with 22 points – 18 in the second half. It marked the 16th time this season he has scored at least 20 points in a game. Eddie added 18 for the Hokies, who shot 45 percent from the floor (27 of 60).
But the Hokies also got important contributions from Brown, who finished with four points, Rankin, and Cadarian Raines, who scored eight points, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked four shots.
“Erick is our guy, but we’ve got some other guys that can make plays,” Johnson said. “We need for them to make plays more consistently, but we do have other guys that can make plays. When teams take Erick Green in certain situations, these guys still have confidence to make plays. Even though Robert and Marquis hadn’t done a whole lot on the offensive end, they still know that I have confidence in them to make a play when the play is available.”
McKie paced the Demon Deacons with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Thomas added 12 points and eight rebounds. Harris finished with 10 points for Wake Forest, which shot 36.8 percent (25 of 68).
The Hokies now get ready for in-state rival Virginia, which comes to town for a Thursday night game. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m.