There was a moment.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker knew it.
"I believed that whole time we were going to win that game. I knew that if I had the shot, I knew I was going to come down and make it. Before I even took it, nothing but confidence because I believed."
Justin Bibbs knew it.
"I was like 'Oh my god, he shot it,' Then when it went in, I said 'Oh my god, it went in,' It would be him to shoot it. That's just the type of player he is."
It happened with about 20 seconds left in overtime.
Alexander-Walker took the biggest shot of his young career and helped Buzz Williams secure the biggest win of his Virginia Tech tenure, 61-60 over No. 2 Virginia.
Let's rewind for a second.
With 12:59 left in the first half, Williams called a timeout. Tech was down 13-5 and John Paul Jones Arena was rocking. The Cavaliers felt it. The fans felt it. The media members felt it. The "Cavalanche" was coming. A stretch of game where the UVA defense just shuts down its opponent, and gains an insurmountable lead.
But then, it didn't happen. Virginia Tech went on a 17-0 run. The burst from the Hokies was nothing but pure, unstoppable, shooting. Alexander-Walker hit back-to-back long balls. Bibbs added a three of his own. Chris Clarke chipped in a triple too. Even Devin Wilson had a three drop.
Virginia finally broke the Hokies'
run sprint with its own three-pointer to curb a 22-5 spurt in which the Cavaliers did not make a shot from the field for 8:21.
At one point in the first half, the Cavaliers faced their largest deficit of the season (27-15). JPJ was stunned, fraught with fans who were searching for an answer Virginia wouldn't find until after halftime. A buzzer-beater three from Alexander-Walker provided the Hokies a seven-point cushion at intermission.
However, Virginia Tech's advantage was quickly erased early in the second half due to poor shooting and poor defense. UVA came out of the locker rooms firing on all cylinders. Three straight three-pointers knotted the game up at 35, and from that point forward, it was ugly basketball.
There was a stretch — 11:44 to the 6:42 mark — where only a combined four points were scored. It was brutal. And yet at the same time, it was beautiful. As expected, Virginia flexed its muscles on defense, and somehow the Hokies matched the effort.
"Offense wasn't the problem," said Justin Robinson after the game. "We did a little segment [in practice] on offense and not being able to hear, but besides that we've just been working on jumping to the ball and staying in gaps and just working on the defensive end. That's what's going to win us games."
The production and the tenacity the Hokies showed on defense wasn't just impressive. It was record-setting. It was Tech's best defensive performance of the season and held Virginia to just 34.4% from the field — which was also a season-low for the Cavaliers.
In a pre-game conversation with other writers, I staked claim to a bold take. The first team to 50 points would win. Yet neither team breached that threshold in regulation. After the lead see-sawed a couple times over the final 6:42, the Hokies had an opportunity to hit the half-hundred mark. With Tech up 49-47, Robinson stepped to the line with 20 seconds remaining for a one-and-one. Tech was a perfect 6 for 6 up to that point. And then the front end clanged off the rim. Ty Jerome hit a jumper and everybody was treated to free basketball, tied at 49.
I jinxed the Hokies with the death tweet not once, but twice in overtime.
That's the type of game it was. Tech's certainty of both victory and defeat whiplashed throughout the overtime period. With a five-point lead, the Cavaliers seemed like they had finally worn out the scrappy Hokies. But what would this game be without yet another twist? A layup by Kerry Blackshear Jr. followed by a 1 for 2 trip at the charity stripe by Isaiah Wilkins brings us back to the moment.
Alexander-Walker is barely 19 years old. He's young. He's raw. But he's talented, and when his moment came, he was ready.
"Nothing but John 11:40. 'Did I not tell that if you believe, you would see the glory of God,'" he said after the game.
And man, talk about glory. A pump-fake. Wilkins, a veteran Cavalier flew by. Alexander-Walker stepped up in front of a sprawled DeAndre Hunter. Three-pointer, drilled.
All of a sudden, UVA's lead was just one.
Last season, UVA missed a front-end of a one-and-one to allow Seth Allen to hit a game winner. On Saturday night, UVA missed a front-end of a one-and-one to allow Blackshear Jr. to hit a game winner.
And as Ty Jerome heaved a desperation 35-footer, there was just one thought going through Bibbs' head.
"I just had to hear the buzzer," Bibbs said. "Thing was, I couldn't hear it because it was so loud. So when he missed it, I looked around then I saw all the players that were on the bench, on the court, and was like 'ah thank God.'"
Oh, and Virginia Tech scored 50 first.