Coach Seth Greenberg’s bubble-dwelling Hokies (19-8, 9-5) entered Saturday night’s game with one last opportunity to earn a marquee win on the season — a nationally recognized win that the NCAA Tournament selection committee could not ignore.
The Hokies got exactly what they needed. Senior guard Malcolm Delaney described the 64-60 upset of then No. 1 Duke as “the biggest game of his career.”
“Obviously we’re excited in what we were able to accomplish this weekend,” Greenberg said. “But we need to basically validate our play this past weekend by playing very well against a tough Boston College team.”
Senior forward Jeff Allen paced the Hokies in their defeat of Duke, scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds — all while managing to stay out of foul trouble.
“Jeff Allen is a first team all-ACC player (in terms of) what he has given us lately,” Greenberg said.
The Hokies played tough defense (limiting the Blue Devils to 4 for 20 from behind the arc) to overcome a dismal 8 for 19 effort from the charity stripe and a 4 for 15 shooting performance from Delaney.
Until now, Tech’s resume had been full of mediocre wins. The Hokies flopped in early-season opportunities against Kansas State and currently No. 6 Purdue and No. 13 North Carolina.
At home, the Hokies led Purdue 50-46 with 1:49 remaining in the game only to lose in overtime. In Chapel Hill, they saw a 16-point advantage fade into a three point loss.
After Saturday, the Hokies are in a much better position than where they have been over the past three seasons. But in order to avoid sweating out another Selection Sunday, they need to win at least one more game.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make the NCAA Tournament — not beat Duke,” Greenberg said. “To make the NCAA Tournament, we have to continue to play well.”
Tonight, Tech hosts Boston College for senior night before closing out the regular season at Clemson on Saturday. The Hokies will then compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament March 10-13.
Boston College (17-11, 7-7) and Clemson (19-9, 8-6) are both bubble teams in a worse position than Tech.
The Hokies are looking to even the season-series with the Eagles, having already suffered a tough 58-56 loss on the road on February 5th.
“We have to guard the ball better, we didn’t do a very good job keeping the ball in front of us,” Greenberg said.
“Offensively, we didn’t play with any type of speed.”
However, tonight will be a much different environment. It is senior night for Delaney, Allen and Terrell Bell.
“Those guys are invested in our program. They have a chance to be the winningist seniors in the history of Virginia Tech if we can continue to play well,” Greenberg said.
Delaney and Allen have been four-year starters for the Hokies, while Bell entered the starting lineup last season.
“He (Terrell) is a huge part of what we do when we’re good,” Greenberg said. “Terrell bought into our program and he has been rewarded over the past two seasons.”
These seniors have never been to the NCAA Tournament, as the Hokies’ last appearance was in 2007.
“Last year was a failure to me. We broke a record for wins but we didn’t do what our goal was (to make the tournament) and when I don’t reach a goal that is a failure to me,” Delaney said before the beginning of the season.
“The NCAA Tournament is a big stage. We’re seniors and that’s the stage that we need to be on,” Allen said.
A victory tonight over Boston College would essentially lock up the appearance on the “big stage.”
“This is a home game and you have got to win your home games,” Greenberg said. “To me, senior night is special and it is even more special if you can find a way to get a win.”
Tip-off is slated for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPNU.