By the time the final horn sounded, the buzz around Cassell Coliseum had already gone flat.
Whether it was miscues on the defensive end sending Miami to the charity stripe, missed free throws in clutch situations on the other end or simply the inability to get a stop, wasted opportunities were undoubtedly the story of Virginia Tech's heartbreaking 102-95 triple overtime loss to the Hurricanes.
"It was exhausting," said freshman forward Landers Nolley, who finished with 18 points. "It was a fun environment, but an exhausting game. We just got outworked in the end."
After snapping a five-game losing streak with an impressive win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Hokies looked lackadaisical in a first-half performance that saw them commit seven turnovers. But as soon as Tech looked like it was doomed to sleepwalk to another conference loss against a subpar opponent, it woke up in the second-half with 10:34 to go to get back into the game.
That 14-3 run included two traditional three-point plays from Tyrece Radford and a pair of threes from Jalen Cone — who finished with a career-high 20 points — and was punctuated with a Radford dunk with 5:15 remaining in regulation that put the Hokies up 68-63. It seemed like the home team was well on its way to getting back-to-back victories.
"Playing with a better pace," Tech first-year coach Mike Young said of the second-half turnaround. "We tend to get a little flat footed and we become easy to guard. I just want to see us get downhill earlier in that shot clock. It's not so much to shoot quicker, but to be more difficult to guard and find a favorable matchup. I thought we did a much better job in the second half."
But for every swing of momentum the Hokies grabbed, it slipped away as quickly. Isaiah Wong, who led the Hurricanes with 27 points, went on a personal 7-0 spurt to give Miami a two-point lead. And even after Tech later responded with a layup from Radford and a free throw from Cone to go up 77-74 with 13 seconds remaining, it once again had a letdown.
On the opposing end, Hurricanes guard Kameron McGusty opted to drive toward the basket — a surprising move considering the score and the time remaining — but instead of allowing him to score and maintaining a one-point lead, Radford attempted to deny McGusty's shot and the result was a converted three-point play that evened the score up and sent the game to overtime.
"Just so many [turning points]," Young told Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop on the Tech Postgame Show. "You've got to win the thing in [regulation] for crying out loud. Jalen, who played an awfully good game and is a terrific foul shooter, missed the front end that would've put us up four. I certainly don't fault him. He missed a shot. But you're up three and to my surprise, they drive the ball and low and behold, we foul him. There were so many plays like that."
Radford added: "Of course [we want to have a chance to replay the possession]. At the end of the day, we lost. At the end of regulation, Wabissa [Bede] played tough defense. As a unit, we played tough defense. He just hit a tough shot to tie it. I feel like it was lucky, but he hit it."
There were other squandered chances too. Tech led by as much as four in the first overtime after a trey by Cone, but allowed two clutch buckets from Wong in the final minute. Then in the second overtime, after back-to-back circus shots from Radford and Wabissa Bede gave the Hokies a 90-88 lead, it was Wong once again hitting the game-tying shot with 17 seconds left.
By the time the third overtime came around, with both teams looking fatigued, Tech's youth showed as Wong and McGusty took turns churning out buckets and slowly sending fans out the exits of Cassell with the frustration of a sixth loss in its last seven ACC games.
"Golly," Young said. "They give us everything they've got in their tank every time they go on the floor. We just didn't have that pop in the first half and Miami is good. They're playing good basketball. It's hard to keep them out of the lane. [Rodney] Miller is a load in there and [Keith] Stone had a very nice game for them. We popped back in the second half to compete and we were very, very good in a number of areas. I can't ask for anymore. I just hate to lose it."
The end-of-regulation foul was about the only negative of the night for Radford, who continues to emerge as arguably the Hokies' best player this season. He finished with a career-high 26 points and registered his third double-double of the season with 10 rebounds in the loss.
"He's turning into a terrific player," Young said. "He's so aggressive. He's only going to get better, too. You can play him a certain way. He has become a very good foul shooter. He has a nice shooting stroke. He has gotten more comfortable with it and he is so dynamic driving it. His game is going to continue to expand as he moves along here. He is becoming a great player."
Nolley also earned his third double-double of the year and second in his last three games with 18 points and 11 boards, but still struggled to find his shot. He's 7-of-36 from the field in his last two games. Despite that, Young insisted that the redshirt freshman is playing well for him.
"I think he's playing good basketball," the first-year Hokies coach said. "He's playing very, very well. He's giving us everything he has and he's done it throughout the year. His shot selection was very good tonight. He just didn't get the shots down that we expect him to get down."
The game was quirky in other areas, too, with the two teams combining to go 53-of-60 at the free-throw line. Miami outrebounded Tech 55-45, and the Hokies had only a single turnovers from the second-half on.
It was the first time since 1983, when Tech lost 90-86 to West Virginia, that the Hokies played a game that went to three overtimes. It was also the first triple-overtime game in the ACC since Wake Forest and North Carolina in 2003. It was the fourth such contest in program history.
"I look out there and there's nothing more I can ask of my team," Young said. "I didn't think we played very well in the first half. I thought we came back in the second half and acquitted ourselves incredibly well. Tyrece was superb. I could go on and on. It's another game, another incredible experience that our team will grow from, learn from and get better with it."
There's no doubt the game itself was a missed opportunity for Tech as it tries to keep its postseason hopes alive. The Hokies entered Wednesday on the bubble for the NIT and may be in even more trouble now. With Duke, Virginia and Louisville up next, Young knows the challenge.
"I'm aware of where we're going next," Young said. "It's always difficult to lose a game, though. I don't care if you're going to play the Los Angeles Clippers, that's never a good thing."
And it's a more troublesome outcome for the Hokies when it's a loss to one of the four teams below them in the ACC standings.
Now, Tech will try again to right the ship, this time against the No. 5 team in the nation according to KenPom.
"We have to get this one behind us and prepare," Young said. "It seems like an eternity ago that we played [Duke] here. We'll look forward to it and head down to Durham on Friday and prepare our team to compete on Saturday."