The score may have been close when Virginia Tech beat Virginia, 47-45, in January, but that didn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the game.
Sure, Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson came off the bench for the second time this season and made a clutch three-pointer from the corner with 16.5 seconds left to propel the Hokies to an upset. That game, though, is still tied for the fewest points Virginia Tech has put up this season. Virginia shot 32.6 percent and made only 15 shots all night.
But considering that’s exactly the pace Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett seems to like his basketball, it begged the question this week as to whether these two in-state rivals will combine to score at least 100 points when they meet Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum.
“Why isn’t 47-45 entertaining?” Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg wondered Monday afternoon. “When Michigan State plays Ohio State and it’s 50-48 or whatever it may be, that’s appreciated as two teams playing really hard, competing, it’s hard to get an easy shot. . . . I think you’ll see two teams play really hard [Tuesday]. I think two teams [that] play with a great sense of urgency and a purpose and a toughness and I think it’ll be a good basketball game whether it’s in the 90s or the 50s.”
Not surprisingly, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett wouldn’t promise offensive fireworks, either, telling reporters Monday that “you guys will have to be the judge” of whether Tuesday’s game will be an entertaining affair.
So how will these teams score points against one another? Here are three things to watch as Virginia Tech tries to sweep the series for the third consecutive season:
Can Virginia Tech slow down Mike Scott again?
The Cavaliers’ star is having a remarkable season, but the Hokies managed to hold Scott to just 10 points and nine shot attempts back in January with what Bennett called a “smothering” defensive approach. But on Tuesday night, Virginia Tech will be without forward Victor Davila (groin), Scott’s primary defender last month, and Virginia has begun running Scott around screens on the perimeter like a guard. Greenberg said Monday the Hokies will take a committee approach against Scott, with sophomores Cadarian Raines and Jarell Eddie and freshmen C.J. Barksdale and Dorian Finney-Smith all bound to get a shot at some point. Their effectiveness remains to be seen, however.
Who will provide it for these teams? Virginia had a consistent one in guard Joe Harris (11.8 points), and combined with the Cavaliers’ defensive tenacity, it was a big reason why they seemed to be on the cusp of their first NCAA tournament berth since 2007. But Harris is now playing through a broken left (non-shooting) hand, and though he had an encouraging performance in Virginia’s win over Maryland, it remains to be seen how effective he can still be. Greenberg called Cavaliers freshman Malcolm Brogdon the “X-factor” because he’s averaging 9.8 points over the past five games. Virginia Tech hasn’t had a consistent scorer outside of guard Erick Green this season, but in the Hokies’ past three home games (all wins), at least three players have finished in double figures.
Dorenzo Hudson vs. Sammy Zeglinski
When the Hokies won in January Hudson scored six of his 12 points in the final 2 minutes 12 seconds, taking the smaller Zeglinski into the post down the stretch. Hudson has been playing through a left knee injury all season, but hit a game-winning three-pointer to give Virginia Tech a victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Zeglinski’s shooting stroke, meanwhile, tends to be a barometer for the Cavaliers’ success. When he scores in double figures, Virginia is 9-0 this year. When the senior has been held to one field goal or less in ACC play, the Cavaliers are 1-4.