ATLANTA (AP) - Seth Greenberg called starting guards Erick Green and Dorenzo Hudson the heartbeat of his Virginia Tech team.
In a mild upset, the Hokies still have a heartbeat in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Green scored 24 points and the Hokies, who took the lead with a 9-0 run, beat Clemson 68-63 on Thursday night in the first round of the ACC tournament.
Hudson added 19 points for Virginia Tech, which lost its last four games of the regular season.
The Hokies' starting guards combined to make five 3-pointers and 12 of 12 free throws.
"You could see it in their eyes," Greenberg said. "These two guys were the heartbeat of the team."
There were 10 ties, the last at 52-52. Clemson, the No. 7 seed, then went about 3 minutes without scoring as Virginia Tech, the No. 10 seed, took the lead.
"We talked to them all week about finishing and making just one more play," Greenberg said.
The Hokies (16-16) will play No. 2 seed Duke in Friday night's quarterfinals.
Greenberg said his team was prepared for the close finish. It was the 13th ACC game decided by no more than five points for the Hokies this season. Virginia Tech was only 4-12 in the ACC in the regular season.
"We haven't practiced special ends to the game, we're just lived it," Greenberg said.
Free throws were the difference. Virginia Tech made 17 of 20 and Clemson (16-15) made only 9 of 15, including 3 of 7 in the final 1:17.
"This is really disappointing because I think we thought we could come here and do a little better," said Clemson coach Brad Brownell.
Clemson's Milton Jennings hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining to cut the Hokies' lead to 68-63. After Hudson made two free throws for Virginia Tech, the Tigers couldn't make another 3.
Freshman Devin Coleman led Clemson with a career-high 15 points, his first game scoring in double figures.
"I didn't really pay too much attention to the stage," said Coleman of his first postseason game. "I just wanted to go out there and play hard and make plays to win the game."
Jennings and Andre Young each had 13. Tanner Smith had 12.
Green provided the assist on Hudson's 3-pointer that snapped a 52-52 tie. Green's 3-pointer with 3:50 remaining pushed the lead to 58-52.
"We're roommates, so we both talked about it coming down to the end," Green said.
"We finished. I'm really proud of that."
Following a flagrant one foul against Booker, Cadarian Raines sank a free throw to push the lead to seven points.
Dorian Finney-Smith drove for a lay-up with 2:23 remaining, pushing the lead to 61-52.
Booker ended Clemson's drought with a jam with 2:04 remaining.
Green leads Virginia Tech with his average of 15.3 points per game. He posted his first game with at least 20 points since he had 21 against Florida State on Jan. 10.
"Erick Green, I thought, was really the difference in the game," Brownell said. "He played with great composure, made good shots, did a pretty good job defensively, and I thought just kind of controlled things throughout the game."
The teams added another chapter to their history of close games, including a split of two two-point decisions in the regular season. Since Virginia Tech joined the ACC before the 2004-05 season, 11 of 13 games between the teams has been decided by no more than five points.
There were 11 lead changes in the game.
Virginia Tech senior forward Victor Davila, who missed the last six games of the regular season with a left groin and leg injury, did not play. Davila started 25 games this season, averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.