WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Virginia Tech's young basketball team wasn't ready for the start of ACC play.
The Hokies were sluggish from the start Saturday against host Wake Forest, and though they rallied at the end, it wasn't enough in a 58-55 loss at Joel Coliseum.
"The way we came out and the way we played today, we didn't deserve to win," Tech guard Erick Green said.
The Hokies (11-4, 0-1 ACC), who are now 1-7 in ACC openers, fell behind 10-2 to start the game and trailed by 13 later in the first half. But they came back with a strong-shooting second half and forced an exciting finish.
Wake Forest junior guard C.J. Harris broke a 55-55 tie with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 18 seconds left.
Tech had a chance to tie the score again, but freshman Robert Brown missed a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining.
"I was pretty open, and when it left my hands I thought it was good," Brown said.
The Hokies' first ACC game was an eye-opening experience for Brown and fellow freshmen Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.
The four combined for only eight points and nine rebounds in 72 minutes.
"It was definitely a learning experience today," said sophomore forward Jarell Eddie, who scored 12 points. "Guys definitely learned that we've got to go into ACC play, definitely on the road, with a different mindset and a better approach."
The Hokies held Harris, who missed Wake's last game with a groin injury, to only seven points on 1 of 6 shooting in the first 38:55, but the sharpshooting guard sank two 3-pointers in the final 1:05, including the wide-open go-ahead basket.
"Since they didn't pressure me, I could just dribble the clock out, which really helped us," Harris said of his game-winning bucket. "High ball screens, we do them all the time in practice. Carson [Desrosiers] set a great screen. I was wide open, so I took the shot."
Green was supposed to guard Harris, but he went underneath Desrosier's screen, which gave Harris the clear look at the basket.
"I thought we were going to blitz, but that's my fault. I shouldn't have went under the screen," said Green, who led all players with 19 points. "I should have went over top the screen, and he threw it up. It's a lesson learned, don't go underneath screens."
Tech wanted to get the ball into Green's hands on its final play, but Green was hung up on a screen and couldn't get open. So Brown took the shot. It hit the rim and bounced away.
"The way we've been playing lately, we've been on top of our game and playing good ball," Brown said of the Hokies, who had won six straight entering the game. "You've got to credit Wake Forest's defense. They came and pressured us and played excellent."
The Hokies shot only 32.3 percent in the first half, and they were behind 24-15 in rebounds at the break.
"I was extremely disappointed in our basketball team, right from the start of the game to be quite honest," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.
The Hokies climbed out of their early hole by shooting 48.1 percent in the second half. They went on a 9-2 run late in the game and took their first and only lead on Eddie's 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining.
Harris answered 15 seconds later with a 3-pointer.
Wake Forest (10-5), the second-worst rebounding team in the ACC entering the game, finished with a 42-31 rebounding advantage.
Richmond native Travis McKie (John Marshall) led all players with 15 rebounds. He also had 12 points for his seventh career double-double.
"If we rebound, we give ourselves a chance to win against anybody," McKie said.
McKie, who was recruited by Tech, can now claim a victory over the Hokies. The Demon Deacons, who went 1-15 in ACC play last year, lost twice to Tech last year during McKie's freshman season.
"I've lost to Richmond twice. I've lost to VCU once. I beat Virginia once, and now I've beaten Virginia Tech," McKie said. "So I feel pretty good about myself."