Quick hits: Va. Tech win over Wake caps fun Day 1 of ACC tourney

Bob Donnan

GREENSBORO, N.C. — On paper, there wasn’t a lot of sex appeal to Day 1 of the ACC tournament, pitting the conference’s four worst eligible teams (excluding Syracuse).

But the crowds at Greensboro Coliseum were treated to a pair of exciting games, with Boston College rallying past Georgia Tech in the opener … and then Virginia Tech slipping past Wake Forest in the proverbial nightcap, 81-80.

The second matchup was a lot better attended, with Winston-Salem (home of the Deacons) being only 40 minutes from Greensboro. And there was a definite energy in the building, especially as Wake Forest came back from 10 down at halftime.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough and Virginia Tech ended up winning 81-80.

ODDS AND ENDS

1. Both Wake Forest (13-19) and Virginia Tech (11-21) closed their respective regular seasons on somewhat disappointing losing streaks.

After taking Duke to overtime (Feb. 25), Virginia Tech went to Virginia and lost by 12 in a pretty good performance, but then fell to Boston College at home and to Miami at home (by 21) — the same Hurricanes the Hokies will face on Wednesday.

Wake Forest, in turn, played Virginia close before losing by double digits to Notre Dame and at home to UVa again, then beat Pitt and lost their final two regular-season games by a combined 51 points.

2. Wake had multiple looks at a potential game-winner in the final seconds, but it just wouldn’t fall. An out-of-bounds call was reviewed with six seconds left and Wake down one; it appeared the ball went off of Wake’s Codi Miller-McIntyre, but the ball stayed with the Deacons.

Dinos Mitoglou got a good look off the baseline that didn’t go in, and then Devin Thomas had a point-blank attempt with a second left that rolled off when Miller-McIntyre’s putback fell off the rim, as well.

"I guess it wasn’t meant to happen," a despondent Miller-McIntyre said after the game.

3. Danny Manning, Wake’s first-year head coach, couldn’t be asked to evaluate his team with any real clarity after such a disappointing loss, but heoffered some thoughts about the future of the program.

"It’s a new era for Wake Forest basketball. We’re asking these guys to do something they’ve never done before and they’ve handled it well, but I think for me the biggest centerpiece at this point in time of the year is how you feel after games like this," Manning said.

"This is supposed to fuel you when you’re working out in the summer. This is supposed to fuel you when you’re in practice and the season gets long and you get tired, remembering this feeling and not wanting to have this feeling. So that’s something that we’ll continue to talk to our young men about and let them know that we have to continue to work."

4. Wake’s future is certainly bright, considering Miller-McIntyre almost certainly returns for his senior season. He closed this year brilliantly, scoring 23 points in his final game (8 of 17 shooting) to go with 11 assists and just one turnover.

Mitoglou hit a big shot to give Wake the lead with 25 seconds left and finished with 11 points and seven rebounds — a lot for the skinny forward. Freshman Cornelius Hudson had 14 points against the smaller Hokies, and should gain some weight this offseason.

5. Buzz Williams is doing a rebuilding job of his own at Virginia Tech. He’s always been a unique coach, even having his players do the actual scouting report for this game themselves. Even after the win, he could see the full picture with what lay ahead and what a win like this could do to help build.

Always blunt, Williams pointed out that when you’ve won 11 games, it’s both good and bad that you’re bringing everyone back, in a sense.

"Our spring and summer and our fall will probably be the most important three seasons of their career because it will dictate/determine where our future is going to be," Williams said. "If you look at next year’s team, there will only be three guys on the team that were on the team the day that I was hired. So long term, I hope it’s the right decision on the decisions that we’ve made. I’ve had a lot of fun because I’ve learned a lot."

"I’ve had the time of my life coaching these guys, not because of my ego," Williams said. "I don’t want to win for myself. The kids have worked incredibly hard every day regardless of the tumultuousness of what we’ve been through."

6. Virginia Tech freshman Jalen Hudson has been all over the map this season. On the plus side, he had four scoring bursts against ACC foees — 12 against Notre Dame, 18 at Syracuse in a two-point loss, 23 at home against Duke in an overtime defeat and now 32 against Wake Forest in triumph.

"I’ve said since Thanksgiving that Jalen was our most talented player, but he didn’t play hard enough to be that every game. He knows that," Williams said. "When he plays hard, he’s very good, and when he doesn’t play hard, he’s just a 6-4 guard that doesn’t play hard."

When Hudson was asked why his effort level fluctuated, though, Williams jumped in.

"Because he’s 18, and this was an overwhelming experience, and if it was that easy to do every single day, then everybody would do it. He’s not going to answer that question," Williams said. "He’s a great kid. I love him. He knows that. I coach him really hard, and sometimes that’s really hard to endure my coaching and to execute what I’m asking you to do."

But Hudson was unstoppable, especially down the stretch as he scored 12 of the Hokies’ final 15 points. He got into the lane seemingly at will.

"Once he got his first few points he just kept on attacking, attacking the rim, made 10-of-10 from the free-throw line," Miller-McIntyre said. "We didn’t do a good job of helping each other out and talking. A lot of of his points were just straight down the middle or straight to the rim after he got by the first person. There was no help.

As a team, we have to play better team defense because he was a tough player tonight. We should’ve have let one person beat five players on the court."

7. Virginia Tech will face Miami, which crushed the Hokies by 21 just a few days ago.

"They’re playing for an NCAA tournament at-large bid, great coach, Final Four experience," Williams said. "They’re playing at a very high clip. We will have to figure out a way somehow over the next 27 hours to figure out how to slow them down if we can."