Date: Wednesday, January 6
TV: The ACC Network
Following the postponement of Saturday’s game against Virginia, the No. 19 Hokies (8-1, 2-0) return to action against Louisville (7-1, 2-0) on Wednesday in Virginia Tech’s first true road game of the season.
Tech should be well-rested considering it has only played one game since December 21. That lone contest came on December 29 against Miami when the Hokies fended off a late comeback attempt to win 80-78.
They’ll have a tough challenge on the road against the Cardinals, who just narrowly missed this week’s AP Poll, finishing 27th. Similarly to the Hokies, Louisville’s lone loss of the year came in a blowout during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, losing 85-48 against Wisconsin.
The Cardinals have had no issue bouncing back from that loss with three straight wins, including two conference victories to start the year and a three-point win over rival Kentucky. Most recently, Louisville was able to take down Boston College in Chestnut Hill, 76-64, on Saturday.
It will be a familiar face leading Louisville against the Hokies in the form of Radford transfer Carlik Jones. Last year, Jones dominated in the New River Valley putting up 20 points per game with the Highlanders. That was good enough to be named Big South Player of the Year.
Jones decided to move up to the ACC and hasn’t missed a beat. He leads the Cardinals with 16.4 points per game and, even as a guard, is second on the team with 6.6 rebounds. He is sure to be shadowed by the Hokies’ top perimeter defender, Tyrece Radford, whenever he is on the floor.
Along with Jones’ contributions, sophomore guard David Johnson has grown into a large threat to score over the last few games. Johnson led the Cardinals with 20 points and hauled in eight rebounds against the Eagles on Saturday.
The Hokies hope that a second eight-day break in a row will allow for sophomore big man John Ojiako to finally join the team following his torn meniscus before the season. Louisville’s starters are all six-foot-eight or smaller, which could allow the Hokies to have a big game in the paint.
Keve Aluma has been the Hokies’ star through the first nine games, and he’s coming off of his best game of the year. Aluma added a career-high 26 points against the Hurricanes, including a huge mid-range jumper late to help the Hokies seal the game.
Aluma wasn’t part of the Hokies’ lineup when these two teams met in March of last year. The game was tied at halftime before the Cardinals exploded for 41 second-half points and won 68-52. However, Louisville lost almost all of its offensive production from that team in the offseason.
Leading scorer Jordan Nwora left for the NBA this offseason. Nwora had 20 points and 12 rebounds against the Hokies in 2020. Johnson and sophomore Samuell Willamson are the only returners who scored against Tech last year.
The Hokies and Cardinals are both looking to become the first ACC team to get to 3-0 in conference play this season. After the trip to the KFC Yum! Center, Tech doesn’t leave Blacksburg again until January 17.