Where: JPJ Arena
When: Tuesday, Feb. 12
UVA rolled into Cassell Coliseum in January and beat the Hokies 74-58. Tech will try to return the favor in Charlottesville tonight.
That’s going to be a difficult task for this struggling Virginia Tech team. They were dominated in every phase of the game by the Hoos in the first meeting, and both of these teams have been going in the opposite direction. UVA has won six out of seven, while the Hokies have lost six games in a row.
Virginia will also have more to play for in this game. Though their computer numbers aren’t good right now, if the Hoos can keep winning, pick up a quality win or two, and avoid any further bad losses, they’ll find themselves on the bubble on Selection Sunday. They will be ready to play tonight.
Virginia is a fairly deep team, and even though they were missing sophomore forward Darion Atkins (6-8, 222) the first time they played the Hokies, they still had enough guys to come out with an easy win.
G Jontel Evans (5-11, 188, Sr.): Evans is a very tough player, and a tenacious defender. He is very physical, and he will draw the assignment of defending Erick Green in tonight’s game. Green scored 35 in the first meeting, and some of that did come with Evans guarding him. Evans isn’t a scorer, averaging just 3.3 points per game, but he’s a very valuable player for UVA. Evans also has 69 assists on the year.
G Joe Harris (6-6, 211, Jr.): Harris is UVA’s best overall player. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.9 points per game. Harris shoots 47% from three-point range, and he is UVA’s top threat from the outside. He is blessed with a very high basketball IQ, and earlier this year on Tech Talk Live, Jarell Eddie noted that Harris was the best player he’s ever defended because he’s so smart when coming off screens.
G Paul Jesperson (6-6, 197, So.): Jesperson is another big guard who can shoot the basketball. He averages just 4.6 points per game, but he shoots 37.5% from the outside.
F Akil Mitchell (6-8, 234, Jr.): Mitchell is UVA’s most improved player this season. He is averaging 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 31 steals, and overall he is a very active player. Tech’s inside players must match his intensity and keep Mitchell off the offensive glass. The Hokies held him to eight points and eight boards in the first meeting.
F Evan Nolte (6-8, 207, Fr.): Nolte is a young player, but he’s averaging seven points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He shoots 42.7% from three-point range. He torched the Hokies for 18 points in the first meeting and went 5-of-9 from three-point range. He also had two blocks and four steals.
C Mike Tobey (6-11, 227, Fr.): Tobey is UVA’s biggest player. He averages 6.5 points per game. He scored 10 points against the Hokies in the first meeting, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.
G Justin Anderson (6-6, 226, Fr.): Anderson is another big wing for Tony Bennett’s team. He averages 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Ever since he had 11 points, six assists and three steals in the first meeting with Virginia Tech, Anderson has seen a lot more playing time. He was recently named ACC Rookie of the Week.
G Teven Jones (6-0, 190, r-Fr.): Jones is another young player who averages 16.9 minutes per game. He averages only 2.9 points per game. His minutes have dropped since Jontel Evans returned from injury. He played just three minutes in the first meeting with the Hokies.
F Darion Atkins (6-8, 222, So.): Atkins provides important post depth for the Hoos, averaging 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 25 blocks on the season.
Hoos are Heavy Favorites
Last I checked, UVA is a 14-point favorite in this game, as they should be. Look for Tony Bennett to try and do the following defensively:
1: Limit Erick Green in transition. Force him to score all his points in the halfcourt offense.
2: Collapse on and trap Cadarian Raines to deny him the ball.
3: Make Jarrell Eddie, Robert Brown, and others make shots from the outside.
In the first meeting between these teams, only Erick Green scored in double figures for the Hokies. Cadarian Raines took only three shots, as the Hoos did a great job of denying him the basketball. Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie went a combined 3-of-14 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range. To top off the offensive problems, the Hokies played poor defensively as well.
For the Hokies to win this one, they’ll have to do a few things:
1: Get a typical Erick Green performance.
2: Get some cheap points, either in transition or off offensive rebounds.
3: Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie have to make some shots.
4: The Hokies must play better defense this time.
Things aren’t all lost for Tech. The road team has won the last three games in this series, and all six of UVA’s losses this season have come to teams ranked outside the top 100 in the RPI. That’s not going to look good to the NCAA Tournament committee when March rolls around.