GREENSBORO, N.C. — Erik Swoope’s big impact for the Miami Hurricanes came just in time.
There was more evidence of that Wednesday afternoon as he scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half and made a key defensive play. His efforts allowed the Hurricanes to hold off Virginia Tech 57-53 in an ACC tournament first-round game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“One of the main things I tried to understand was trusting what I’m good at,” said Swoope, a senior who entered the starting lineup a few weeks ago.
Guard Rion Brown scored 15 points, including two free throws with eight seconds to play, as 10th-seeded Miami finally beat 15th-seeded Virginia Tech.
Swoope was credited with a blocked shot as Virginia Tech forward Jarell Eddie failed to convert off a rebound of guard Devin Wilson’s intentionally missed free throw on a sequence that would have tied the game. Swoope then iced it with two foul shots with 2.5 seconds left.
“When Jarell Eddie got it, I just wanted to do everything I could to help my team win that game,” Swoope said. “Luckily, I came out with the tip-out and the rebound.”
Freshman guard Davon Reed scored 14 points in his first postseason game for Miami (17-15), which lost twice to Virginia Tech (9-22) in the regular season.
Eddie scored 16 points for the Hokies, who ended the season with seven consecutive losses. Eddie wrapped up his career with 1,182 points.
“We’ve seen it (happen) in close games down the stretch,” second-year Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said of the mishaps. “Miami made those plays, and we didn’t make those plays.”
Virginia Tech’s only ACC victories this season came against Miami (Dec. 8 and Feb. 15).
Johnson’s job status might be in question, as his teams are a combined 22-41, including 6-32 against ACC competition.
“I’m optimistic that I will be back and I’ll be the head coach here at Virginia Tech,” Johnson said. “The future is bright at Virginia Tech. We just have to go to work.”
Wilson gave an endorsement of his coach.
“Having him back next year is going to be everything for us,” the freshman said.
Defending champion Miami must win four more games in order to repeat the tournament title.
Next up is Thursday night’s second-round game against seventh-seeded North Carolina State, which split with the Hurricanes during the regular season. The winner of that game plays second-seeded Syracuse in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Swoope scored in double figures for the sixth consecutive game after reaching that level only once in the season’s first 24 games. He also snatched eight rebounds Wednesday.
“His attitude and his work ethic has never changed,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “In the last month, he has been the difference.”
Brown made seven of eight free throws after connecting on only 10 of 21 in the previous four games.
“I didn’t want to be the reason that we went home,” Brown said. “I stepped to the line and wanted to shoot them with confidence.”
With the Hurricanes leading 53-52, Miami guard Manu Lecomte missed a runner in the lane with 36 seconds left, but Swoope grabbed the rebound. The Hurricanes called timeout with 23 seconds left, then threw away the inbounds pass.
Virginia Tech forward Joey van Zegeren, with a chance to put his team ahead, missed two free throws with 9.5 seconds left.
Earlier, Virginia Tech pulled even at 49-49 when Miami failed to score on seven straight possessions, and the Hokies led briefly on Eddie’s 3-pointer with 3:21 remaining. That was the team’s last field goal.
“We just didn’t seem to make the plays at the end,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to finish those plays, which we normally do. I give Miami a lot of credit. They played good defense at the end, made us take tough shots. But we’ve got to be able to capitalize.”
Virginia Tech led 32-31 at halftime when Wilson made one of three free-throw attempts with less than a second remaining.
The Hokies shot 54.5 percent from the field in the first half, and the didn’t commit a turnover. They hit only 26.1 percent in the second half, when they had three turnovers.
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