Date: Wednesday, January 27
TV: RSN (Affiliate List)
It was a tough weekend for No. 20 Virginia Tech (11-3, 5-2) on and off of the court, but the Hokies return to the hardwood for a rematch against Notre Dame (5-8, 2-5) on Wednesday night.
Tech is coming off of its second ACC loss of the season after an empty trip to Syracuse on Saturday. The Hokies trailed by just three points with 13 minutes left in the game, but the Orange quickly put Tech away, scoring 31 of the next 40 points.
The Orange dominated on the block with 82% of their points coming either from the paint or at the free throw line. This is the second straight game that Tech has had issues down low as Wake Forest cleaned up on the glass with 16 offensive rebounds against the Hokies. Tech will need better performances from its frontcourt moving forward.
This is especially true now that guard Tyrece Radford is missing from the lineup. It was announced on Monday morning that Radford was suspended indefinitely from the program after his arrest over the weekend. Radford is currently second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and he seemed to just be hitting his stride with double-digit points in three straight games.
While Radford’s contributions will be sorely missed, there are options for the Hokies to replace him in the starting lineup. Head Coach Mike Young could go small with sharpshooter Jalen Cone, but the most likely option would be to insert Hunter Cattoor, who brings a lot more to the table defensively and actually is the most efficient three-point shooter on the team at 46%.
Cattoor had a big game early this month against the Fighting Irish with 15 points in the Hokies’ 77-63 win in Cassell Coliseum. Tech struggled early on against Notre Dame, but dominated in the second half, doubling up the Irish 42-21 in the final 20 minutes to pull off the win.
After shooting over 55% in the first half, Notre Dame was just 2-of-19 in the second frame and didn’t make a shot from the floor in the final 12 minutes of the game.
That loss was the fourth of five straight for the Irish to start ACC play. However, after the slow start, Notre Dame has bounced back with consecutive wins, both by double-digits. Those wins did come against Boston College and Miami, who have a combined three wins in the conference.
The Hokies should be able to have a little more success against the Irish in the paint than they had against Wake or Syracuse. Notre Dame is one of the worst teams in the country on the offensive glass, only getting second chances on 20.7% of possessions. They also rely on the three-pointer much more with almost 40% of Irish points coming from beyond the arc.
Notre Dame’s success from long range starts with junior Nate Laszewski who is shooting over 55% from deep. The six-foot-ten forward leads the team at 16.6 points per game and 7.8 rebounds.
Tech was able to keep Laszewski off of the three-point line in the teams’ first meeting, missing his only three-point attempt. However, Laszewski used his size and aggressiveness to get to the free throw line and still led the Irish in scoring with 17 points, with 11 of those points coming at the charity stripe.
This is a tough stretch of the Hokies’ schedule as they will play three out of the next four on the road. In Tech’s three true away games this season, the Hokies are just 1-2 and haven’t played a complete game. The task just got harder having to replace Radford on the fly.
Young’s squad has bounced back from each of its three losses this season, including a win against the Irish after losing at Louisville. The Hokies need to find a way to bounce back to keep this promising season from flying off of the rails.