Following their 2-0 trip to Connecticut, the No. 16 Hokies (3-0) return home for the month of December with six straight games in Cassell Coliseum. That homestand starts with the VMI Keydets, who have started the season 2-1 with wins over St. Andrews and Longwood.
VMI’s lone loss came against another future Tech opponent, Penn State, who the Hokies welcome to Blacksburg for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Tuesday night, December 8.
The Keydets are no stranger to Head Coach Mike Young, as VMI is in the SoCon with Wofford where Young was the head coach from 2002-2019. The good news for the Hokies is that Young’s Terriers won all 12 matchups between the two schools during his time in Spartanburg.
Young was able to improve to 13-0 against the Keydets last December when VMI traveled to Blacksburg last December. Tech led by just six with three minutes left in Cassell Coliseum before the Hokies finally sealed a 64-55 win late.
“They play a match-up zone, so different than our first three games. We didn’t handle their matchup zone very well at all last year. We’ll do a better job with it on Thursday,” Young said. “We look forward to getting back into Cassell, having the opportunity to compete and seeing our boys go up and down the floor.”
That may have been the high point of the Keydets’ season, as they went 9-24 and 3-15 in the SoCon during the 2019-20 season.
Following the year, VMI lost its top-scorer, freshman Travis Evee, after he transferred to Rice. In his only year on campus, Evee averaged 12.6 points and was named SoCon Freshman of the Year.
Despite Evee’s departure, the Keydets still have a dangerous scorer in senior guard Greg Parham, who hasn’t missed very often through three games. He’s currently shooting over 60% from the field and from beyond the arc and is averaging 18.7 points per game.
The Richmond native has scored 20 or more in each of the last two contests, including 21 against Penn State last Saturday. He’ll have to be the Hokies’ top priority on defense with how hot he has been from the outside.
Tech gets some relief entering this game with sophomore guard Jalen Cone finally returning to the rotation. Cone had missed the last few months of preparation for the season with a foot injury but was cleared to return to play just before the Hokies’ opener against Radford.
“He could have played this past weekend, but I just didn’t want to throw him into that fire,” Young said. “He is such an important player for us looking big picture as much as anything else. He will be in the lineup tomorrow and he will be on the floor because he is a good basketball player.”
Cone averaged eight points per game as a freshman while only averaging about 18 minutes per game. His return will make the Hokies much more dangerous from beyond the arc as Cone shot 45.7% from three-point range last year. Coming off of the bench, he should provide a jolt to Tech’s offense immediately.
With games against PSU and Clemson coming up over the next two weeks, the Hokies hope to use this game as a tune-up to get ready for ACC play which is quickly approaching. The goal for Tech will be to avoid a letdown after a great weekend in Bubbleville.