BLACKSBURG — Of the eight Virginia Tech players who logged minutes Saturday against Georgia Tech, Dorenzo Hudson scored the fewest points. Bet he's forgiven.
A fifth-year senior with a cranky left knee, Hudson made a 3-point prayer as the overtime buzzer sounded to give the Hokies an improbable 74-73 victory at Cassell Coliseum.
Improbable not because the Yellow Jackets are imposing. They're not. They're the ACC's last-place team and the lowest-scoring squad the program has endured in 30 years.
Oh, and Glen Rice Jr., Georgia Tech's top scorer and rebounder, was suspended indefinitely Friday.
No, this was improbable because the Yellow Jackets shot a season-high 58.8 percent and because the Hokies were less than 48 hours removed from a crushing 48-47 defeat at Florida State, where they squandered a 9-point lead in the final 1:29 and where Seminoles guard Michael Snaer hit the winning three in the waning seconds.
"That was a heck of a win for our guys to come back from the Florida State devastation," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.
His counterpart, Brian Gregory, concurred.
"It's a testimony to (Seth) and his guys to be able to fight and battle the way that they did today," he said. "Teams with lesser character would not have done that."
That said, the Hokies (15-12, 4-8 ACC) needed an overdose of good karma to prevail.
After Mfon Udofia's bucket gave Georgia Tech (9-17, 2-10) a 73-71 lead with 5.3 seconds remaining, Virginia Tech called timeout in the frontcourt with 3.5 seconds left. Here Greenberg subbed Hudson for C.J. Barksdale.
Hudson had scored just two points, but Greenberg turned to him because he's the Hokies' best inbound passer. Greenberg always reminds his players during practice that defenses often leave the inbound passer open, but he didn't during this timeout.
Hudson passed to Jarell Eddie in the right corner, where Eddie bobbled the ball, prompting Nick Foreman to leave Hudson and trap Eddie.
"Unfortunately, we don't trap," Gregory said. "In crucial situations, you need to stick to your defense."
Eddie found Hudson, and even as Foreman knocked him down — officials missed the apparent foul — Hudson made the 3-pointer from right in front of the Hokies' bench.
"I actually didn't see it go in," Hudson said.
Little wonder. He was on his back after the contact from Foreman.
The contact that followed — teammates mobbing him — was much more welcome.
"It's not exactly the way we drew it up," Greenberg said. "You wonder if 21 was looking down upon us and just willed that ball in."
The 21 is a reference to the late Allen Calloway, whom the Hokies honored with an annual fund-raiser Saturday. Calloway died of cancer three years ago this week at age 25.
If heaven helped, the undermanned Hokies will take it.
Center Victor Davila missed his second consecutive game with a groin injury. Barksdale played on a swollen left ankle that sidelined him at Florida State. Cadarian Raines took two bags of IV fluid before the game to prevent nagging cramps. Freshman Marquis Rankin hobbled to the bench late with cramps.
And while Erick Green, as usual, led Virginia Tech in scoring (14 points), it was Raines (career-high 13), Barksdale (career-high nine) and freshman Robert Brown (10) who were, in Greenberg's word, "huge."
"Cadarian Raines played his heart out today, played his heart out," Greenberg said.
He called Barksdale "valiant," and praised Hudson.
"The guy's playing hurt," Greenberg said. "There's no doubt about it. He's done everything we've asked him to do. You can't help but be happy for him."
Sunday is an NCAA-mandated day off for Virginia Tech, leaving Greenberg and Co., little time to prepare for Tuesday's home game against 22nd-ranked Virginia. The Hokies defeated the Cavaliers last month in Charlottesville 47-45 thanks to Hudson's late 3-pointer.
"You see development," Greenberg said. "You see C.J. Barksdale getting better. You see Rankin getting more confident. You see Brown going downhill off ball screens. You see Raines developing. We just have to try and win as many games as we can."
Indeed, Saturday was progress. The competition becomes much stiffer Tuesday, and beyond.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun