BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team’s final shot did not go through the basket last weekend.
But on Wednesday night, it did.
Redshirt freshman guard Tyrece Radford drove to the basket and scored with four-tenths of a second left to give the Hokies a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina at Cassell Coliseum.
“I’m going to remember it,” he said of his shot. “It was a big game, a big possession.
“It was a big shot.”
Radford, who was guarded by Jeremiah Francis, put up a floater in the paint. The ball hit the rim, bounced off the glass and fell into the basket.
“I knew I put it in the right spot,” he said. “But I tried to hurry up and come down just in case … [it was a miss and] I could easily tip it in.
“My biggest thing was just finishing through the contact. Don’t worry about the contact. You know you’re going to go through it. Be a man.”
Radford started as usual Wednesday but played only 21 minutes because coach Mike Young liked how reserve guard Nahiem Alleyne was playing.
After going to the bench again with 96 seconds left in the second OT, Radford returned to the game for defensive purposes with 18 seconds left. But after UNC’s Garrison Brooks scored with nine seconds remaining to tie the game at 77, Radford got a chance to shine on offense.
“When his number was called, he was ready,” Young said. “He hadn’t checked out mentally.”
Young had not called a timeout after Brooks scored.
“I don’t like to do that,” Young said. “If you call a timeout, they can change defenses. They can take the ball out of [point guard Wabissa] Bede’s hands, which I don’t want. But I want them to play. Landers [Nolley II] was dribbling the ball right at me to call timeout. I said, ‘Play!’ ”
The winning shot was Radford’s lone basket of the game. Radford, who had gone 0 of 4 from the field in last weekend’s loss to Syracuse, had missed his first two shots Wednesday.
Was he nervous to take the shot?
“Kind of, but really not because inside the 3-point line is my game,” he said. “I know how to finish with contact.”
Nolley had passed the ball to Radford to set up Radford’s winning drive to the basket.
“I trusted him,” said Nolley, who had 22 points. “We all trusted him, and he just came through.”
With Tech trailing Syracuse 70-69 last weekend, Nolley had missed a deep 3-pointer with three seconds left. Syracuse wound up winning 71-69.
This time, Nolley passed the ball.
“Landers made exactly the right play. Unlike Saturday, when — he knows it, I know it — he didn’t make the right play,” Young said. “He learned from his mistake.
“He didn’t shoot the ball great [Wednesday], but man did he make a lot of really intelligent basketball plays.”
It was the second time this month that Tech (14-3, 5-3) pulled off a second-half comeback.
The Hokies trailed by nine points with 12:11 to go in a 67-63 win at Syracuse on Jan. 7.
On Wednesday, UNC (8-10, 1-6) led 49-37 with 13:18 remaining in the second half.
“Comebacks are amazing,” Nolley said. “It’s just a great feeling, especially at home.”
Young is glad to see that his team is capable of comebacks.
“I was really worried about it early on. A sign of a young team is you get down, … you want to withdraw instead of fighting,” Young said. “But boy, they’re coming into their own. That’s a great sign of growth mentally, physically.
“The next play is the only thing that matters. … Soft teams, weak teams don’t respond that way. Tough teams do.”
The taller Tar Heels shot 51.6% from the field in the first half, when they scored 26 points in the paint. UNC built a 36-30 halftime lead.
Brooks, a 6-foot-9 post player, had 15 points and seven baskets in the first half.
So Tech double-teamed him the rest of the way.
“A lot of post players that don’t like that,” Young said. “He’s catching the ball now three, four steps off the lane line and out of his sweet spot.”
The Tar Heels had just 14 points in the paint the rest of the game. UNC shot only 33.3% from the field in the second half and 41.7% in overtime.
“We just had to tighten up some screws,” Nolley said. “Trap a little harder. Reach in a little harder on the post.”
Brooks had just 13 points and four baskets after halftime.
“They started doubling him more,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “They should have doubled him — he was our biggest offensive threat in the first half.”
Tech freshman Jalen Cone had 18 points and six 3-pointers.
Cone made back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the UNC lead to 59-58 with 3:05 left in the second half.
“He’s a killer, isn’t he?” Young said.
Tech’s P.J. Horne made two free throws with 13.7 seconds left to tie the game at 60 and force overtime.
“Huge,” Young said.
Nolley made a layup to tie the game at 67 with 27.4 seconds to go in the first OT, forcing a second OT.
Tech sank 14 3-pointers but shot just 36.9% from the field.
“Just rushed a little,” Nolley said. “We’ve just got to slow down and be patient.”
UNC outrebounded Tech 43-39. But the Tar Heels had just six offensive rebounds and only two second-chance points.
“If we rebound the ball on the defensive end, we’re going to win,” Young said.
UNC had no fast-break points.
The Tar Heels, who are 0-5 this month, played without injured point guard Cole Anthony for the ninth straight game.
“We are pretty thin,” Williams said. “If you were to have asked me in August who our top seven players were, we don’t have four of those seven.”