GAME NOTES: A pair of intrastate rivals heading in opposite directions in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings meet up at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday afternoon, as the Virginia Cavaliers play host to the Virginia Tech Hokies.
With its 83-77 home setback to Wake Forest on Wednesday night, Virginia Tech's losing streak extended to five straight games as it dipped to 8-10 overall and 1-5 in the ACC. The Hokies have played just two true road games this season, going 1-1.
Meanwhile, Virginia opened up its three-game homestand with victories over Florida State last Saturday (78-66) and North Carolina on Monday (76-61), giving it wins in five of six to open up conference action. The Cavaliers are 14-5 overall, which includes a stellar 9-2 mark at JPJ Arena.
In an all-time series that dates back to the 1914-15 season, Virginia holds an 84-53 advantage over Virginia Tech, which includes wins in three straight and five of six.
The Hokies' six-point loss to Wake Forest was actually not as close as the final score indicated, as that was as close as they came to the lead in the second half while trailing by as many as 20. They shot a meager 33.8 percent from the field, well below Wake's 53.6 percent showing. Overcoming the team's struggles was Devin Wilson, who shot 6-of-10 from the field (3-of-4 from 3- point range) and 11-of-14 from the foul line for a career-high 26 points. Jarell Eddie was just 5-of-16 shooting from the floor but still finished with 20 points, while Trevor Thompson tallied a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite Virginia Tech's under-.500 record, it is still able to score more points (70.1 ppg) than it allows (69.0 ppg) thanks to a stellar field-goal percentage defense (.399). Its rebounding margin (+4.1) has also been strong, but it gives up plenty of possessions by committing 4.0 more turnovers per game than it creates. Eddie leads the way in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg), although he shoots just 38.3 percent from the field. With Ben Emelogu (11.5 ppg) and Adam Smith (11.0 ppg) both missing time of late, Wilson (9.3 ppg) has stepped up his play.
Virginia was able to pull away from UNC for a 15-point victory its last time out by shooting 48.1 percent from the field while holding the Tar Heels to just 41.3 percent shooting. It only shot 55.2 percent from the free-throw line, but it was still able to outscore its opponent from the stripe, 16-5. Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon put up 16 points apiece to lead the way. Justin Anderson poured in 13 points off the bench, Akil Mitchell pulled down 11 rebounds and London Perrantes posted eight points and nine assists.
The Cavaliers shoot 44.4 percent from the field this season for 67.0 ppg, but their success has come thanks mostly to their outstanding play on the opposite end of the floor, as they rank eighth in the country in field-goal percentage defense (.380) and fourth in scoring defense (56.8 ppg). Harris (11.6 ppg) and Brogdon (11.1 ppg) are the top scoring options, with Harris making 33-of-76 from beyond the arc and Brogdon shooting 90.2 percent from the free-throw line. Anderson narrowly misses the double-digit scorers club with 9.9 ppg.
With a surging Virginia squad defending its home floor against the struggling Hokies, the writing is on the wall in this one. Don't expect Virginia Tech's offense to get much going against the Cavaliers' stout defensive pressure.
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