The schedule has been no cup of tea of late, and the Hokies have continued to struggle. After a week off, can they bounce back against Miami?
One week removed from their last outing, a 71-48 road loss against the in-state rival Virginia Cavaliers, the Hokies will look to rebound both on the boards, and in regards to their schedule, where they have dropped two out of their last three games.
While the Hokies were able to squeeze out an 85-79 victory against Boston College that was sandwiched between losses to #9 North Carolina and #9 Virginia over the last two weeks, the games have certainly not come easy to this team, which continues to struggle against larger ACC frontcourts.
The Hokies have been utterly destroyed on the glass over the last three games, as they have been out-rebounded 115-70 in the most recent stretch. The preseason injury to one of their best rebounding bigs from last season, sophomore Kerry Blackshear, certainly did not help, but the Hokies’ struggles on the boards run much deeper than that.
In fact, much of it has to do with the lineups that Buzz Williams has on the floor more often than not. Due largely to the fact that the Hokies do not have significant size in the frontcourt because of personnel shortcomings, the team usually trots out four guards and Zach LeDay in their best possible lineups.
For as good as LeDay has been (15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game), he stands at only 6’7″ and is tasked with defending the opposing team’s best big man when the Hokies switch out of zone to man defense.
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Khadim Sy, the tallest player on the Hokies roster at 6’10”, plays only 12.0 minutes per game despite starting most nights. Perhaps it is because he is only a freshman and is not seeing significant time on the floor, but the fact that he is only averaging 3.0 rebounds per contest at his height is troubling, at best.
The task will not be made any easier on the road in Coral Gables on Wednesday night, as the Hokies take on the Miami Hurricanes. The ‘Canes enter the contest 15-7 on the year, with an even 5-5 record in conference play after winning three out of their last four games, which included an impressive 77-62 win over #9 North Carolina last week.
In the scoring column, Miami is led by a three-headed monster of Davon Reed (15.8 points per game), Ja’Quan Newton (15.0 points per game), and Bruce Brown (12.1 points per game). The trio of guards have done an outstanding job at carrying Jim Larranaga’s ball-club to date, and their scoring prowess will need to be stymied by a strong defensive effort out of Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, and Justin Bibbs of the Hokies, who more often than not command the foul line-extended in Buzz Williams’ alternating 3-2 and 1-3-1 zone defenses.
Tightening up the zone and preventing penetration of Miami’s guards, as well as boxing out players such as Kamari Murphy, who is averaging 7.9 boards per game for the Hurricanes, will be the keys to the game on that side of the court for the Hokies.
Offensively, why go away from what has become a sure thing? Senior Seth Allen, who has proven to be the Hokies’ only consistent scorer off the bounce, is up to 12.5 points on 55.7% shooting this season. He will look for a continued scoring effort from Zach LeDay (15.9 points per game), and Ahmed Hill (12.5 points per game). Hill has struggled of late offensively with his jump shot, but after a week off to get his legs back under him, will look to impact the game effectively on both sides of the court against Miami.
The Hokies and Hurricanes tip at 9 PM ET on Wednesday night in Coral Gables. The game will be televised on the ACC Network and on Watch ESPN.