Date: Sunday, January 17
TV: The ACC Network
Coming off of a perfect two-game homestand against Notre Dame and Duke, No. 20 Virginia Tech (10-2, 4-1) looks to avoid a letdown and get its first road win of the season against Wake Forest (3-4, 0-4).
The Demon Deacons are in the midst of the toughest part of their schedule as the Hokies are the fourth consecutive ranked team that Wake will play. On Wednesday, the Deacons extended their losing streak to four with a 77-65 loss to Louisville in Winston-Salem.
Among ACC teams, Wake has been one of the most affected by COVID-19 in the country. After beating Longwood on Nov. 27, the Deacons had to postpone or cancel five straight games and didn’t play for almost five weeks.
Coach Steve Forbes has not had an easy task in his first season with the program after coming over from East Tennessee State. Wake’s star from last year, Olivier Sarr, transferred to Kentucky after former coach Danny Manning was fired, and Forbes was left with a depleted roster.
Forbes is no stranger to Hokies’ head coach Mike Young from their times in the SoCon. From 2015-2019, the two matched up nine times with Young’s Wofford Terriers going 6-3. Wofford took the final four games of Young’s tenure against ETSU.
Young is also 2-0 against Wake Forest in his coaching career, with one win coming at Wofford and one last year with the Hokies. Tech traveled down to Winston-Salem in mid-January of last year and came away with the 80-70 win.
Sarr was the Deacons’ leading scorer in that game. He put up 18 points and nine rebounds off of the bench, but was remembered for getting dunked on by Tyrece Radford, who had a career night with 21 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
Radford is coming off of a huge game against Duke on Tuesday, when he had his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He’s now one of four Hokies averaging double-digit points on the season.
It could be another big night for the Hokies’ offense as the Deacons are one of the worst defensive teams in the country. Wake is allowing opponents to shoot over 45% from the floor and are allowing almost 75 points per game in the ACC.
Wake will have to depend on juniors Isaiah Mucius and Daivien Williamson if the Deacs want to stop their skid. Williamson came to Winston-Salem with Forbes from ETSU and leads the team in points, assists and steals. He had 19 points on Wednesday against the Cardinals, a season-high.
Mucius has taken over as Wake’s top player in the paint, averaging 10.3 points per game and leading the team with 5.3 rebounds. He’s coming off of a tough game against Louisville where he shot 2-of-9, only putting up four points.
Tech will certainly have starters Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts out there to deal with Mucius defensively. However, there are some questions about frontcourt depth off of the bench with Cordell Pemsl dealing with a back injury and John Ojiako still getting back to full strength from his preseason knee injury.
The Deacs also have some familiar faces to the Hokies on the floor, starting with Isaiah Wilkins who spent his first two seasons in Blacksburg. Wilkins hasn’t had much production in his first seven games with just 2.6 points per contest, but still sees about 16 minutes every night.
Young is also very familiar with Wake’s newest addition Carter Whitt who chose to go with the Demon Deacons over the Hokies earlier this year. After graduating high school in recent weeks, Whitt decided to enroll early and was immediately eligible. He’s started two of his first four games, but he has struggled with turnovers averaging over three per game.
Tech should be in great position to put a fifth ACC win on the board early in the season against the reeling Demon Deacons. However, the Hokies have struggled with some lulls offensively, especially in their two losses. If Tech can avoid prolonged scoring droughts, the Hokies should make their way back to Blacksburg with a third straight win.