Virginia Tech's basketball team returned to campus about 3 a.m., Friday. Behind the Hokies was Thursday's wrenching loss at North Carolina. Ahead was Saturday's home date with Wake Forest.
The good news: Class is not in session. Hello, sack time.
Plus, Saturday's opponent appears to be the ACC's worst team — and this season, that's saying something.
The bad news: Tech botched an opportunity against a Carolina team saddled with wretched backcourt play — freshman Kendall Marshall a clear exception.
The Hokies lost 64-61 after leading 31-15 late in the first half and 39-29 early in the second. They lost a game in which the Tar Heels shot 5-of-21 from beyond the 3-point arc and 7-for-17 from the foul line, and committed 17 turnovers.
Tech lost a game in which Malcolm Delaney had 28 points, five assists, four steals and a career-high seven 3-pointers, and reserves Manny Atkins and Jarrell Eddie combined for 15 clutch points.
"We had the game in position," Delaney said. "We came out and made the first punch. In the second half, we just didn't put them away."
Down 62-61, Delaney had a chance to win it, but Marshall blanketed him on a 3-point attempt from the right wing that clanged off the rim with about five seconds remaining.
"It looked dead on," Delaney said, "but it was just a little short. It was a good shot. I got a little separation like I wanted. I just didn't hit the shot."
So ended the Hokies' six-game winning streak and the second consecutive game — they defeated Florida State 71-59 last Saturday — in which coach Seth Greenberg employed a 2-3 zone defense for the entire 40 minutes.
Tech (10-5, 1-2 ACC) has taken to the zone, which helps it mask size and depth deficiencies. Those issues were magnified Thursday when Atkins, Jeff Allen (season-low four points) and Erick Green sustained debilitating cramps.
A sophomore point guard, Green played well in his first true road start with 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists. But the cramps limited him to 28 minutes.
"They started hitting some shots, and we started losing some bodies," Delaney said of the contrasting halves. "Our game plan was not to just play zone. We were going to switch our defenses up a lot. But foul trouble [Terrell Bell fouled out, and Allen committed four] and people cramping up changed the whole game plan."
The cramps likely altered the Hokies' Friday routine, too. Rather than practice, Greenberg planned only a 6 p.m., tape session to review Carolina and, most important, preview Wake Forest.
"The most important thing right now is rest," he said. "Rest and get ready to play."
Quick turn-arounds are a way of life when your conference is married to TV — name one that's not.
The Hokies played four games in seven days early this season and lost the final two, against Nevada-Las Vegas in California and Purdue at home. They play two ACC games in three days next month when they host Georgia Tech on Feb. 13 and Maryland on Feb. 15.
This crunch is eased by Wake Forest's startling decline under first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik. The Deacons (7-10, 0-2) advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, but with only one returning starter — guard C.J. Harris — they've lost to Stetson, Winthrop and Presbyterian while dropping ACC games to North Carolina State and Maryland by 21 and 19 points.
Still, Greenberg knows his Hokies can't dwell on the virtual pain of losing and/or the literal pain of cramping. Losing to Wake Forest would damage Virginia Tech's NCAA tournament aspirations more than winning at North Carolina would have helped.
"Every single time you lose you squander an opportunity," Greenberg said. "We had a chance to win a game in a tough environment and unfourtunately we didn't finish it. … We learn from it, move on and get ready for Wake Forest.
"In this league, if you get too caught up in the past, you're sure not going to be very successful. You've got to move forward."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDPCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun