Loud. Unhinged. Deafening.
All words I've heard to describe Cassell Coliseum.
Tonight though, it shook. The Hokies knocked off No. 5 Duke, 64-63 and it registered on the local seismograph.
"I don't know why, there was something in my spirit when they called their second timeout," noted Buzz Williams. "Normally from where I stand, [the far] balcony is empty. I looked up there as I was drinking the water and was I like 'that's full.' I never look over my right shoulder. Full. I looked over [my left shoulder]. Full."
Tonight, 9,275 fans watched the Hokies punch their ticket to the Big Dance. Give or take a few, 9,100 of them were Hokie faithful.
"In the three times we've played Duke since I've been here in Blacksburg, with each passing game, there's less and less of a percentage of Duke fans in attendance," said Williams. "Which speaks to the fact that there has been a groundswell of support of our group and how we're trying to do it."
There's no debating it. On a night where Virginia Tech struggled all night to get over the proverbial hump (Tech led for a total of 1:00), the Hokie faithful spurred them on.
"It's just amazing," said Chris Clarke. "People don't understand how loud it gets in Cassell. I think it's one of the loudest gyms in the nation."
"I try to stay engaged in the game. Try not to show emotion. Try to stay locked in. At times, I've come out of character because the crowd is so hyped," added Justin Bibbs.
"That was probably one of the best crowds we've had since I've been here," noted Kerry Blackshear Jr. "Their energy when we go on a run, we love it."
Everybody in the stands knew the stakes. Tech was staring an 0-3 finish to the regular season dead in the eyes. An uneven end to a season that otherwise had turned into a solid campaign. And a shaky Hokies' finish never mixes well with the selection committee.
You could feel it. The anxious energy as Duke built a 15-point lead with 9 minutes remaining in the first half. The murmurs grew louder and the nervous shifting increased.
With Justin Robinson nursing a bum ankle, the Hokies leaned on true-freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker. A personal 7-0 run by the youngster brought the crowd to its feet. Add in Justin Bibbs' quick four points, and all of a sudden Tech cut the deficit to 25-29. Cassell had a game again.
But still, no Hokies lead. Halftime came, Duke up 33-27, and the Blue Devils methodically pulled away to begin the second frame. A three-point lead became nine. But again, the crowd persisted. They stood. They yelled. They manufactured a Hokie run. One-point game.
But there went the Blue Devils again. With a combination of size inside and three-point shooting outside, Duke opened up yet another nine-point lead, 58-49, this time with 7:02 left. Duke turned the dial in Cassell from bumpin' to static. Buzzketball dug themselves too big a hole in the first half, and Duke was just too good. It happened again.
Game over, right?
In the paint, at the line, and from beyond the arc Tech scrapped its way back within four, 56-60. Then fresh out of a Duke timeout with only 3:20 remaining, Williams waved his arms imploring the crowd to get louder. They obliged. A pair of free throws from Robinson. A dunk by Clarke, then a subsequent steal and layup. Tech had a new hope.
But still, the lead was out of reach. Trailing by one with 23.4 on the clock, Williams turned to his team and said one thing.
"We're going to win the game. Just be patient."
Patience paid off. Bibbs passed up a jumper. Alexander-Walker pumpfaked instead of shooting a contested three. Clarke crashed the boards on the back-side. Easy layup.
And then, the loudest roar I've ever heard in Cassell Coliseum. The sound of "Virginia Tech" in ink on a bracket.