ATLANTA — For the first time since before Christmas, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team had reason to celebrate after a game Saturday.
Rookie coach James Johnson clapped his hands as he walked up a ramp into the visitors’ locker room after a 70-65 overtime win over Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion.
The Hokies (10-6, 1-2 ACC), who scored the first seven points of OT, had lost four straight games by double digits.
“Oh boy,” Johnson said before entering the locker room.
Johnson, who got the first ACC win of his head-coaching career, was greeted by applause in the locker room.
Erick Green followed Johnson into the locker room and was greeted by another round of applause. Green scored 20 of his 28 points in the final 14 minutes of regulation and in OT.
“We’re just tired of losing,” said Green, who made six of his final eight shots from the field. “Guys stepped up and played huge.”
Georgia Tech (10-5, 0-3) led 43-32 with 13:52 left in regulation. If Hokies fans were fearing at that point that their team was headed for another lopsided loss, they weren’t alone.
“I’m not going to lie, I thought it was like that — ‘Uh oh, here we go,’ ” Green said. “But we didn’t give up.”
It was Virginia Tech’s first victory since an OT win over Bradley in Las Vegas on Dec. 22.
“This is a big confidence-builder,” said C.J. Barksdale, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. “We needed to get all that weight off our shoulders.”
Barksdale had his first career double-double. Seven days earlier, he had not played against Maryland because Johnson hadn’t been happy with his effort.
“I wanted to be assertive from the beginning of the game to the end,” said Barksdale, who returned to the lineup Wednesday against Boston College.
“He’s kind of got the message from the benching,” Johnson said.
Robert Brown, who did not play Wednesday because of the flu and a 102-degree fever, scored 10 points off the bench Saturday. He was 0-of-9 from the field in regulation but had two baskets in OT.
“I’m not 100 percent yet,” Brown said.
The Hokies had allowed at least 86 points in each game of their losing streak. But Saturday’s score was tied at 55 at the end of regulation.
Georgia Tech, which entered the game ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring offense, shot only 36.1 percent from the field in the game.
The Hokies, down to seven scholarship players, employed more zone defense than they had in any other game this season.
“We’ve been working on a 2-3 zone,” Green said. “If we keep it up, it’s going to be a key to our team.”
Chris Bolden sank a 3-pointer to extend Georgia Tech’s lead to 53-47 with 7:26 left in regulation, but the Yellow Jackets did not make another basket until Mfon Udofia scored with 2:34 remaining in OT. Udofia’s bucket ended a 15-2 Hokies run and cut the Hokies’ lead to 62-57.
Virginia Tech outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 43-32. Georgia Tech had just nine second-chance points.
“The initial defense was good and then we didn’t give up the second shot,” Johnson said.
When the Hokies were down 43-32 with 13:52 left in regulation, Green had only eight points.
“I felt like I needed to take over,” he said.
He erupted for 14 points in an 18-10 run. He capped the run with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 53-50 with 6:51 to go in regulation.
The Hokies managed only one point on their next eight possessions. Georgia Tech had only two points in that span.
Cadarian Raines scored to cut the lead to 55-53 with 1:00 to go in regulation. Green made two free throws to tie the score at 55 with 23.9 seconds left in regulation.
Udofia missed a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in regulation, and Virginia Tech’s Jarell Eddie grabbed the rebound. Green missed a shot from inside the halfcourt line.
Georgia Tech played “Enter Sandman,” a favorite tune for Hokies athletes and their fans, on the public address system as overtime began.
“We got all hyped up in the huddle,” Green said with a grin.
The Hokies shot just 36.5 percent from the field in regulation but were 5 of 6 from the field in OT.
Barksdale, Eddie and Green scored to give the Hokies a 62-55 lead.
With the Hokies up 66-63, Georgia Tech missed two shots and Barksdale snared a rebound. Eddie made two free throws for a 68-63 lead with 10.3 seconds left in OT.
Green made two free throws for a 70-65 cushion with 2.4 seconds left in OT.