Tonight, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team will welcome its in-state and ACC rival, the Virginia Cavaliers into Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies (11-6, 2-2 ACC) will be looking to build a winning streak after an overtime win over Georgia Tech and a home win against Wake Forest in their last two games. After their seven-game winning streak to start the season, the Hokies have gone 4-6 and are looking to turn their season around once more.
Leading the charge will be star point guard Erick Green and his nation-leading 24.6 points per game. The last — and only — ACC player to lead the nation in scoring was Grady Wallace of South Carolina in 1956-57. Green will be looking to continue his prolific ways against a staunch Cavaliers defense.
The Cavaliers (12-5, 2-2 ACC) are second in the nation in defense, allowing just 50.6 points per game, and are led by senior guard and 2012 ACC All-Defensive team member Jontel Evans. The Cavaliers succeed by limiting opponent’s possessions and limiting points in those few possessions, ranking ninth in defensive efficiency.
“I think all of that starts with Evans and his ability to put some pressure on the basketball,” Johnson said. He added that the Cavaliers are “strong and physical, and they keep the ball in front of you.”
The focus of that defense will be squarely on Green, as it has been all season long.
“He’s getting a lot of defensive attention," Johnson said. "It’s coming from different ways every game.”
However, Green won’t be enough against the stout Cavaliers defense, and the Hokies will need their main secondary scorers — sophomore guard Robert Brown and junior forward Jarell Eddie — to step up.
Eddie has averaged 14.5 points per game this season, but has been inconsistent lately scoring 17, five, 21, nine and 18 points in his last five games. Brown has struggled even more, scoring double digits in only three of his last nine games, while also missing the Boston College game due to illness.
The Hokies will likely not get any help from the injury list with freshman forward Marshall Wood still sidelined with a foot injury. Wood has been practicing all week, but Johnson considers it a long shot that Wood would play.
One thing the Hokies won’t have to worry about is the Cavaliers offense testing their soft defense. Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett referenced the Cavaliers lack of scoring when asked about his team’s defense, joking that “We haven’t been scoring too well ourselves, so we better play good defense.”
The Cavs score just 62.1 points per game, ranking 285th in the nation. In particular, the Cavaliers offensive strategy doesn’t take too many opportunities in transition, a sore spot for the Hokies.
The Cavaliers lead the all-time series 81-53, but since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004, the series has been deadlocked 8-8. While both teams have had middling seasons so far, the rivalry should mean a good hard-fought game for Hokie fans.
“It's going to be a grind-it-out, tough, physical, hard-fought, competitive game so you may as well strap it on and get ready to play, regardless of the records,” Johnson said.