GREENSBORO, N.C.—In the biggest game of the season, with Virginia Tech's ACC tournament fate and perhaps its NCAA chances on the line, Erick Green had made one more basket than a corpse.
The Hokies' sophomore guard was 1-for-12 from the field in the first 39 minutes and 55 seconds against Florida State's long, athletic defenders.
Green and his mates would endure several more minutes of drama what Hokies' basketball experience is complete without it? but it was Green who provided the points that sent them into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. tournament semifinal against No. 2 seed Duke.
"I was a little down," Green admitted afterward. "I was struggling from the field, but my coach was giving me a ton of confidence that I would make the play. "I left all that other stuff in the past, and in the last couple seconds I got the ball, and it was a mid-range shot, which is what I'm most comfortable with. When it left my hand, it just felt like it was going in. It felt great."
Indeed, Hokies coach Seth Greenberg read Green's body language as the game progressed and knew he had to say something.
"At the three-minute mark, I turned to Erick Green," Greenberg said, "and he was kind of beating himself up. I told him, 'You're going to make a big shot.' I said, 'Look me in the eyes you're going to make a great shot.'|"
Shot converted and lead in hand, then came the tense last few seconds in which Green also played a part.
After a timeout, the Seminoles' Derwin Kitchen took the inbounds pass and sped down the right side of the court. He elevated and launched a jump shot from the right baseline just over the outstretched hands of Green and teammate Manny Atkins.
Kitchen's arcing shot fell through as the buzzer sounded, setting off a wild celebration by the Seminoles.
But when the replay was shown in slow motion on the scoreboard's big screen, a buzz came over the crowd when it was unclear if the shot left Kitchen's hand in time.
Game officials Bryan Kersey, Mike Eades and Bernard Clinton went to the scorer's table. They studied multiple replays on the TV monitor for upward of two minutes, and the anxiety among teams and crowd built.
When Kersey, the lead official and Newport News resident, turned and signaled, 'No good,' the Hokies' contingent erupted.
"That last second, I was so scared at the end because I didn't even know what was going on," Green said. "I couldn't even look at the screen or anything. I just put my head down and waited to see what the call was."
The call sent sixth-seeded Virginia Tech (21-10) into the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2008 and marked the first time the Hokies have won two ACC tournament games.
More important, it likely cemented an NCAA berth for the Hokies come Selection Sunday.
"We're going to play 40 minutes (Saturday)," Greenberg said. "I have no idea what's going to happen Sunday. We're just going to try to play the best we can (Saturday) and hope we can find a way to win (Saturday).
"Sunday's Sunday. We're going to stay firmly in the present. There are certain things that are out of our control, and we're just going to try to prepare tonight and play as well as we can and win (Saturday)."
Both teams had multiple reasons to win and lose Friday. The Hokies are down to seven scholarship players and played only six versus a deep, spectacularly athletic Florida State team that held a 42-29 rebound edge.
The Hokies' 31.5-percent shooting accuracy was the lowest by a winning team in the tournament since Maryland (29.6 percent) beat Clemson in the 1992 play-in game.
Steady senior Terrell Bell went scoreless for only the second time this season. But sophomore Manny Atkins, the only reserve who played, finished with 14 points, including an immense, catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right wing that tied the game at 49.
"I was worried," said Delaney, who led all scorers with 16 points and handed out five assists. "Fortunately, we had Manny. Manny stepped up. He saved the game for us. He hit a big 3, he hit some big shots when we needed them. Manny was the guy off the bench when we needed him."
Meanwhile, the Seminoles (21-10) squandered their size and depth advantages with 20 turnovers and numerous sloppy possessions.
Now, the Hokies get a Duke team they defeated in Blacksburg on Feb. 26, a team that may be depleted itself with Nolan Smith being questionable with a toe injury.
But the Hokies are also playing their third game in three days, and legs are a bit fatigued.
"They're a little hurting right now," Green said of his legs. "But I'm not going to make any excuses. I'm probably going to get in an ice bath and then get some ice and sit on it for the night.
"I'm going to be ready to play. It's like AAU. I love to play basketball, so I'm not going to make any excuse and say I'm tired, or anything like that."