BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech guard Erick Green stood at the free-throw line with 9 seconds remaining in the Hokies’ game against Clemson, getting ready to seal the game and needing to make both free throws to record his fourth game of 30 points or more this season.
He missed the first attempt and made the second, still sealing the game, but coming up short of 30.
“Trust me, I’m definitely going to hear about this,” Green said. “I’m going to hear about this from my family. They’re going to give me a hard time.”
That was about the only thing he did wrong, as he scored 29 points in his final home game, lifting the Hokies to a 69-61 victory over the Tigers on Saturday.
Virginia Tech (13-16, 4-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost 10 of its previous 11 games, but the Hokies are now tied with Boston College for last place in the ACC standings. The Hokies now need a win in either of their final two regular season games and losses by BC to avoid the No. 12 seed in the ACC tournament. BC holds the tiebreaker.
Green scored 17 points in the first half, with 9 of those coming on a 20-8 half-ending run that gave the Hokies a 36-25 lead. Virginia Tech then took a 15-point lead in the second half on two free throws by Green with 17:26 remaining and appeared to be in control.
But Clemson (13-15, 5-11) rallied and cut the deficit to 64-61 on two free throws by Adonis Filer with 1:20 remaining. The Tigers had a chance to get closer. Following a turnover, the Hokies fouled Filer, but he missed two free throws with 35.2 seconds remaining. Virginia Tech’s C.J. Barksdale was fouled on the rebound with 33.6 seconds left and made both free throws to give the Hokies a 66-61 lead.
Clemson’s Jordan Roper then missed a 3-pointer with 25 seconds to go, and Barksdale was fouled again after grabbing the rebound. He made both free throws with 23.4 seconds remaining to give the Hokies a 68-61 advantage and seal the victory.
“It was kind of the story of our season,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We probably had just four or five just bad offensive possessions that were in some critical areas where you just have to be better. I think our young guards sometimes just do some silly things. Obviously, we fouled a couple times. We’d guard them for a while and then just foul them. We were just a little too eager and not disciplined enough to finish it off.”
Clemson fouled Green with 9 seconds left, and Green made the one free throw to account for the final margin. Virginia Tech coach James Johnson then pulled him out of the game, and the senior from Winchester, Va., received a standing ovation.
“I anticipated him coming out and having a big game tonight, to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “Just to have watched and been around him for so long and watch him play his last game in Cassell (Coliseum), that was emotional.
“He goes from two points a game as a freshman to leading the nation in scoring. That shows what hard work can do for you, and that’s how we want to build this program and that’s the type of kids I want to get in the program.”
Green, who came into the game as the nation’s leading scorer at 24.9 points per game, hit 8 of 12 from the floor, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. He also hit 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. He scored 20 points or more for the 26th time in 29 games this season
Barksdale finished with 14 points for the Hokies, and Robert Brown added 13. The two of them combined to hit 10 of 15 from the floor, and Virginia Tech shot 54.8 percent (23 of 42) from the floor — its best performance in an ACC game this season.
Devin Booker paced the Tigers with 17 points. Filer and Milton Jennings added 13 each.