BLACKSBURG, Va. For all the heartbreaking losses, Virginia Tech finally came out on the plus side.
Jarell Eddie scored 15 points and Dorian Finney-Smith had 12 Saturday, and Virginia Tech squandered almost all of a big second-half lead and barely hung on to beat Clemson 67-65.
The Hokies (13-10, 2-6 ACC) led by double figures until the final four minutes when Clemson went on a 15-3 run helped by an effective full-court press. The Tigers had the ball and a chance to win or tie, but they missed two free throws and a shot at the buzzer.
"It almost turned into a typical Tech-Clemson game," Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said of the series marked by close games. "Whoever led the whole game was going to lose. Fortunately, for us, we survived."
The victory was just the second in nine games for Virginia Tech, and the skid included five games it lost by four points or fewer. It also snapped a four-game home losing streak.
"We really needed a win, period," said Eddie, the former Concord Cannon star who credited the near-sellout crowd with making noise when the team needed it most. "We got a little nervous, but we told ourselves we weren't going to let this happen. We weren't going to let them come in here and take it from us. We had a 14-point lead at half, and we weren't going to let them come in and take the win from us."
The Tigers almost did it anyway.
Andre Young and K.J. McDaniels scored 14 points each and Devin Booker 11 for the Tigers (11-11, 3-5). They had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the final seconds, but McDaniels missed two free throws, and Tanner Smith's shot from the baseline missed as time expired.
"We were on our heels for a while and a knockout punch away," Tigers coach Brad Brownell said, adding that some teams would have been blown out. "I give our guys credit for battling, but I just told them we can't wait that long to decide we're going to get involved in a fight."
Clemson trailed throughout before closing quickly. Tanner Smith's driving basket and a three-point play by Bernard Sullivan on a tip-in started the comeback. A dunk by Booker made it 64-57 before Dorenzo Hudson ended Virginia Tech's drought with two free throws.
"We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. We were uptight. We needed to loosen up," Finney-Smith said. He made the Hokies' last field goal, a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 54 seconds left, capping a night in which the freshman made five of eight shots after missing 25 straight over six games.
Virginia Tech led 42-28 at halftime thanks to a big early run. After the Hokies opened a 23-7 lead, the teams traded baskets the rest of the half.
Clemson had six turnovers before the midpoint of the half.