Buzz Williams exhaled as he peered down at the scoresheet from the podium at Conte Forum, looking taken aback by what he had just survived minutes ago.
“They scored 60 of their 80 points?” the colorful Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach exclaimed of Boston College’s backcourt of Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman, after his Hokies won out in overtime, 85-80. “Good lord.”
Down 11 with just four minutes to go before its home crowd at the Conte Forum, the Eagles (13-9) mounted a furious comeback to force OT against Tech (16-6), thanks in part to a rare five-point play from Robinson (32 points) in the final minute, only for the Hokies to squeeze it out in the extra frame.
Bowman came up short of a triple-double (22 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) in the loss, while Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the Hokies’ scoring effort with 20 points to go with eight rebounds.
And while Williams absorbed the blame for the Hokies’ collapse in the final minutes of regulation — “Bad coaching, for sure, on my part,” he said bluntly — he also heaped effusive praise on the BC trio for the relentless stress they put on his wings in staccato bursts for most of the night.
“I don’t know in my career — in this league, for sure, but really in any league — that I’ve ever seen a perimeter that puts stress on you from start to finish the way those guys do,” said Williams, who had a memorable decade at Marquette in the Big East before coming to Virginia Tech and the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
“I mean, it’s so hard,” Williams said. “You know, like, how are you going to guard a ball screen? And then [BC head coach Jim Christian] is such a good offensive coach, and depending upon how you guard a ball screen, that’s gonna determine what he’s gonna run, and that’s gonna get one of the guys not in the ball screen a shot, and they’re so good.”
Bowman’s three-pointer with 3:10 to go cut the Hokies’ lead to five, and then a minute later he took hard contact contorting through the lane and completed the three-point play for a 68-64 deficit.
From there, things took a turn for the unique.
Down 71-64 with 1:02 to go, Robinson was fouled as he launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key. But before he could line up for his free throws, Tech’s Chris Clarke was given a technical foul, leading to a rare five-point play after Robinson waved off Chatman – the Eagles’ leader in free throw percentage – electing to take the technical free throws. Robinson sank all five, then hit two more with 20 seconds to go, for the 71-71 tie.
One could not ask for a better look than what Robinson got at the buzzer, his corner three rimming in-and-out after taking a quick upcourt heave from Chatman off a defensive board.
“Four seconds to go, we’re lucky to get one off, so if you’re getting a teed-up 3, that’s about as good as you’re ever gonna get,” Christian said.
Said Robinson, “I thought I had a good shot. I had to get it off kinda quick, but I thought it was going in.”
After a see-saw opening minutes of the overtime, Tech strung together back-to-back triples from Justin Bibbs (18 points, 4-of-7 on three’s) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (18, 4-of-8), and tacked on a Blackshear layup for an 84-79 advantage with 1:22 to go. Bowman’s last 3-point attempt with 11 seconds to go was the Eagles’ last chance at making it a two-point game.
The teams combined for 65 3-point attempts, Tech finishing with a slight edge in percentage (34.3). After starting the night off a dismal 2-for-12, the Hokies shot 43.7 percent from the arc in the second half and OT.