As a hush fell across the crowd inside Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a scowl emerged on the face of Tyrece Radford with his fists tightened beside him.
Going up with his left hand, the 6-foot-1 freshman guard from Baton Rouge, La. elevated above Wake Forest 7-foot center Olivier Sarr and put down one of the most impressive dunks of the season for Virginia Tech to put a cap on another ACC victory.
"I love that dunk even though he hit me and I lost it," Radford said after the game. "I recovered it and it was tough. I think it was an eye-opener to a lot of people."
Much like Radford's one-handed slam with 9:28 remaining, the Hokies are starting to open eyes after an 80-70 win over the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem on Tuesday.
It was Tech's third straight road win in ACC play and fourth in a row over Wake Forest. Mike Young is the first-ever Hokies coach to win three of his first four ACC road games.
"Again, I continue to say it that nothing is going to surprise me with this team," Young said. "They have a level of confidence and it's a great team in terms of preparation. It's pretty unique and pretty special. I've had some young teams that were a little goofy and needed to grow up some. ... This team, you give it to them and they've got it."
Despite six freshmen playing significant minutes for Tech this season, the swagger it has played with has been impressive through its first six games in league play.
One of the biggest keys has been the play of Radford, who had career highs of 21 points, 13 rebounds and four steals Tuesday. It was his second career double-double.
"I just went out there and had fun and enjoyed playing with my teammates," Radford said with a laugh. "I guess when I'm having fun, it just happens like that."
Much like they did during their previous two wins over Syracuse and N.C. State, the Hokies used a strong second-half run to put the game away against Wake Forest.
With just under 15 minutes to go and holding onto a three-point lead, Jalen Cone hit back-to-back 3s and a key jumper from the top of the key to give Tech a 53-42 lead. A few minutes later, Nahiem Alleyne sparked another 11-0 run with a 3 and Radford's poster slam later capped it as the Hokies took complete control, leading 66-46.
"They got comfortable," Wake head coach Danny Manning said. "Radford, he plays tremendously hard and he gets thirteen rebounds and gets to the free-throw line twelve. Some of those were late, but he put pressure on us with his dribble penetration."
At 6-foot-1, Radford's work on the boards this season has been one of Tech's biggest storylines. Tuesday marked the 10th game that he's grabbed at least eight rebounds, and per Sports Reference, among ACC players he ranks 8th and 12th respectively in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
But it hasn't just been rebounding that Radford has brought to the Hokies. After his career-best performance against the Demon Deacons, Radford is now averaging 9.2 points — that's ranked second on the team — along with 6.5 rebounds per game. According to Pomeroy he tops all players in offensive rating (ORtg).
"I thought Tyrece Radford was just amazing once again," Young told Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop on the postgame show. "He gets that [dunk] with his left hand and he looks like Chuck Foreman running the football downhill. That dunk was just a physical play."
Radford's blue-collar approach to the game stems from the tragedy he's experienced.
After redshirting his first year in the program under former coach Buzz Williams, Radford told Norm Wood of The Daily Press that he dedicated himself to improving as a rebounder. Radford, who is known as "Boots" by his Tech teammates, quickly became one of the Hokies' most likable players with his uncanny ability to dominate the glass.
"Today, we were clicking in the beginning, besides them coming back after that, but [Wake standout Brandon] Childress went to the bench and we had to capitalize on that," Tech point guard and captain Wabissa Bede said. "We lost it but then we came back thanks to Tyrece's energy, like always, jumping in passing lanes and getting steals."
Radford's game isn't always pretty. He isn't a great shooter from 3-point range — a rarity on this year's version of the Hokies — and a lot of his buckets come off putbacks and gritty plays around the basket. But that doesn't matter to his first-year head coach.
"It wasn't a very pretty game, but it doesn't matter how pretty it is on the road," Young said. "You find a way to win. That's the only thing that matters. That's three out of four on the road for this team. That's really impressive. I'm really proud of the competitiveness of this group and getting us out of here with another one tonight."
Much like Radford, the progression of Tech as a team is ahead of schedule with guys like Jalen Cone, Landers Nolley and Nahiem Alleyne all shining as true freshmen.
"We are just enjoying the moments and are taking them in a they go," Nolley said. "We will continue to just take it game by game and have fun every day. We haven't exceeded many goals or have focused on setting records for how many games we have to win. We just go out and compete every game and play our game and have fun doing it."
That fun with the game comes from the youthful approach the Hokies have shown this season and the energy Young has injected into the program. With six freshmen playing key minutes, there's no doubt Tech has exceeded expectations in Young's first year.
And while there's still plenty of games left to be played this season, Young admitted that the Hokies coaching staff has had to adjust those goals as his players continue to grow.
"We're closer to seeing what we'll see over the last 14 regular season games," Young said. "I feel confident that we're going to be able to get to a lineup that can play both ends, rebound the basketball and help us win. We're figuring it out as we move along."
While Radford's one-handed slam opened eyes inside LJVM Coliseum and quickly was being circulated around social media on Tuesday, there's no doubt the play of Young and the Hokies that deserves the most attention through six games in ACC play.
Sure, Tech will likely still face its fair share of growing pains as the season moves along. But Radford and the rest of the Hokies have put the league on notice now and continue to provide eye-openers as expectations grow around the Virginia Tech program.
"If I do that, my team can go further," Radford said. "Everybody on the team has to contribute. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I think we can go far."