After suffering through three straight losses away from Blacksburg, Virginia
Tech returns home to Cassell Coliseum to take on UNC-Asheville on Saturday
night. The Bulldogs are off to a hot 6-1 start to begin the season, riding the
play of two senior guards and one of the biggest humans you will ever see.
The Bulldogs own wins over Furman, Lees McRae, Brevard, Campbell, Western
Carolina and Tusculum. Only Furman, Campbell and Western Carolina are Division I
teams. Asheville’s only loss came at the hands of East Tennessee State 89-87 in
overtime. They could easily be 7-0 right now.
There are a couple of reasons why the Bulldogs are off to their best start in 23
years. First, they are getting excellent play from two experienced, senior
guards. K.J. Garland and Bryan Smithson are their leading scorers. Both players
are averaging 17.8 points per game. They are lighting opponents up from the
has hit 15-of-35 shots from behind the arc, good for 42.9%. Smithson is even
better, having drained 10-of-16 (62.5%) three-pointers in just four games
Asheville loves the three ball. G/F Sean Smith, from Sweeden, is also
shooting 50% from the outside on the season. As a team, Asheville is shooting
43.7% from three-point range, and 52.9% overall. If the Hokies want to fight off
the Bulldogs’ upset attempt, they’ll have improve their perimeter defense, which
has been lacking in the first five games of the season.
Asheville has an inside threat as well, in the form of 7-7, 360 leviathan
Kenny George. George battled through two knee surgeries in the early part of his
career, but he appears to be as healthy as he’ll ever be at this point. He isn’t
particularly athletic, which fits the mold of all 7-footers that play in small
conferences. However, George has been putting up good numbers this year.
is averaging 12.3 points, eight rebounds and 6.5 blocks per game. He plays an
average of 22.3 minutes per game. Obviously his greatest contribution comes on
the defensive end. Not only has he blocked 39 shots this year, which is more
than Virginia Tech has blocked as a team, he is a guy you have to game plan
around. He alters a lot of shots on the inside.
It will be important for the Hokies to attack the paint when George is not in
the game. The Bulldogs don’t have any other player on their roster bigger than
6-8, 210 freshman Eric Stubbs, and he generally has only played in blowout wins
over Division II schools. Jeff Allen could have a field day against the rest of
the Asheville team.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of this game will be seeing Kenny George
and Hank Thorns on the court at the same time. That’s the biggest player you’ll
ever see, and one of the smallest.
Tech has to be ready to play in this game. UNC-Asheville is a very confident
basketball team right now. With four seniors and two juniors in their playing
rotation, they are experienced. Most importantly, they are winning games. They
know they can beat Virginia Tech on Saturday. They are a confident group.
The Hokies have to play good defense on the perimeter. That’s the key to the
game. Limit the open looks of those senior guards, and the Hokies will stand a
good chance to win.
Note: The game time has been switched from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, to
accommodate Hokie fans who want to watch the ACC Championship Game.