BLACKSBURG — Mired in a shooting slump, Robert Brown came through with the winning basket Saturday.
Brown drove to the basket for a layup with 12.3 seconds left to give Virginia Tech a 66-65 win over Wake Forest at Cassell Coliseum.
The sophomore guard had been just 1 of 10 from the field before making the winning basket.
“They were in scramble mode, trying to rotate. It kind of gave me a lane and I was able to get in there and hit a little floater,” said Brown, who scored four points. “Coach [James Johnson] always just tells me to be aggressive, regardless if I’m hitting or not. It was an open shot.
“It felt good to step up and make a play for my teammates.”
Dating back to a Dec. 10 win over Mississippi Valley State, Brown had missed 62 of his previous 78 shots before his layup.
“Shots just weren’t falling [Saturday],”Brown said. “I kind of forced some shots, and then other ones, I had some wide-open 3s and a couple mid-range shots that just didn’t fall.
“Staying in the gym like I’ve been doing, just getting shots up, they’ll start falling.”
In last weekend’s win at Georgia Tech, Brown had been 0 of 9 from the field before making two baskets in overtime.
“Brown [has] got short-term memory,” Johnson said with a grin.
After four straight lopsided losses, the Hokies (11-6, 2-2 ACC) have recorded back-to-back wins. The wins came against Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4) and Wake (9-8, 2-3), not Duke and North Carolina State, but the Hokies are encouraged nevertheless.
“It’s still big,” said Erick Green, who had 18 of his 22 points in the second half. “Any win we can get is going to be an encouragement. … This win got us back on our feet.”
“We’re getting our swagger back,” said Cadarian Raines, who had eight points and 13 rebounds.
The Hokies’ final three baskets Saturday came not from Green but from three members of his supporting cast — Jarell Eddie (18 points, nine rebounds), Marquis Rankin (two points) and Brown.
“My teammates stepped up huge,” Green said.
As was the case at Georgia Tech, Green had a poor first half but a strong second half.
A frustrated Green was 1 of 8 from the field in the first half, one reason his team trailed 37-31 at halftime. But he was 7 of 10 from the field in the second half, when the Hokies shot 56 percent from the field.
Tech went on a 12-2 run to grab a 55-53 lead with 6:23 to go. Green had seven points in the run.
“I took over when I needed to,” Green said.
Eddie sank a 3-pointer to tie the score at 62 with 1:35 to go. He had 15 points in the first half but took only two shots in the second half.
Rankin made a layup to give Tech a 64-62 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
Travis McKie (20 points, 15 rebounds) sank a 3-pointer to give Wake a 65-64 lead with 30 seconds to go.
Brown was fouled when he made his go-ahead layup, but he missed the free throw.
Tech won despite going just 8 of 16 from the free-throw line. The Hokies entered the game ranked first in the ACC in free-throw percentage at 72.7 percent.
Down 66-65, the Demon Deacons missed two shots from close range in the final seconds.
C.J. Harris drove to the basket but missed a layup that was contested by Raines.
“I’m not going to lie, when C.J. drove to the basket, I really thought it was in,” Green said.
“I thought he was going to dunk on me,” Raines said. “He went up with two hands, real strong. I just went up hard to try to contest the shot.”
Tech had given up the winning layup with 5 seconds left in its loss at West Virginia last month.
“Raines … contested the shot, which is what he didn’t do in the West Virginia game,” Johnson said.
Wake’s Tyler Cavanaugh got the rebound — one of only two Wake offensive rebounds in the second half — but missed the putback. Eddie grabbed the rebound at the buzzer
“We had two shots to the rim there, so that’s exactly what we wanted,” Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “You’re either a good coach or a bad coach depending on whether or not the ball goes in.”