Game Preview: Clash of styles marks matchup between #8 UVA, Virginia Tech

uva virginia techVirginia Tech wants to shoot early and often. #8 UVA wants to make you work and then have to settle. It’s a clash of styles that will come to a head for the first of two meetings in 2018 Wednesday night in Blacksburg.

Tech (11-3, 0-1 ACC) is coming off its worst offensive performance of the season in a 68-56 loss at Syracuse on Sunday, shooting 33.3 percent from three-point range and 34.6 percent overall.

For the season, the Hokies average 88.8 points per game, ninth-best in Division I, shooting 53.2 percent from the floor, tops in D1, and 42.7 percent from three, sixth-best in D1.

But over its last three games, Virginia Tech is averaging just 65 points per game, shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from three.

Maybe as significant, the Hokies have allowed opponents to dictate pace of late. For the season, Tech averages 72.3 possessions per game, according to KenPom.com, 64th-best in the nation, but over the last three – wins over Presbyterian and North Carolina A&T and the loss at Syracuse – the Hokies have been getting 66.3 possessions per game.

Virginia (12-1, 1-0 ACC) will certainly effort to dictate pace. UVA opponents average 61.1 possessions per game, 351st, and dead last, in Division I, and foes average 52.8 points per game and .865 points per possession, by far the best in D1.

The shots that opponents get are often of the settling nature. UVA opponents shoot 36.4 percent from the floor, third-best in in D1, and 42.7 percent of their shots are threes, tied for 44th-best nationally.

Players to watch: Virginia Tech

Ahmed Hill (a 6’5” guard) is the Hokies’ leading scorer, at 15.6 points a game, shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and 50.6 percent from three. Justin Bibbs (also a 6’5” guard) is scoring 14.6 points a game, on 54.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.0 percent shooting from three.

Freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been a nice addition to the rotation, scoring 12.7 points in just 24.8 minutes a game.

Big man Kerry Blackshear, a 6’10” force in the post, averages 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds and is shooting 63.6 percent from the floor.

Point guard Justin Robinson scores 10.4 points and dishes out 5.6 assists a game, with a nice 2.5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Keys to the game

Keeping Tech off the foul line: Dribble penetration is the engine for coach Buzz Williams’ attack. The Hokies average 25.4 free-throw attempts a game, 20th-best in D1, and they averaged 23 a game against Virginia in the two meetings in 2017.

Home-court advantage? Cassell Coliseum is a tough place to play when the students are on hand, but how many undergrads will be on campus on the Wednesday after New Year’s? It’s a fair question, and a big one, and no doubt Williams would have preferred to have this one on the schedule a little later in the season.

Broadcast Information

The Virginia-Virginia Tech contest will be televised on the ACC Network and streamed on ACC Network Extra (ESPN3.com) and ESPN App, and broadcast on the Virginia Sports Radio Network, VirginiaSports.com and Virginia Athletics mobile app on iTunes or Android. Live statistics will be located on VirginiaSports.com and the Virginia Sports app.

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