Date: Saturday, February 6
TV: RSN (Affiliate list)
Needing to rebound from Wednesday night’s loss to Pittsburgh, No. 16 Virginia Tech (13-4, 7-3) heads south for a rematch with Miami (7-10, 3-9).
The Hurricanes traveled to Blacksburg in late December for the first of two matchups with the Hokies. Tech nearly blew a 17-point second-half lead as Miami’s Isaiah Wong had a shot from the top of the arc for the win. However, his shot went in-and-out and the Hokies escaped with their second ACC win of the season.
That loss was the second of four straight to begin league play for Miami, and things haven’t gotten much better since. The Canes have had a few surprising wins against Louisville and Duke, as well as a road victory over North Carolina State. Those bright spots have been outnumbered by inconsistency, including losses to other teams in the cellar of the ACC like Boston College and Wake Forest.
A lot of these struggles have stemmed from Miami’s health issues throughout the year. Most notably, last year’s leading scorer Chris Lykes has only played two games this season. Senior Kameron McGusty has also missed significant time, but has come back strong, averaging 13 points per game over the last five contests.
Missing key players, Wong has had to step up and be the number one option for the Canes. He is averaging over 17 points per game and has shined in big games. In Miami’s three ACC wins, Wong has scored over 23 points per victory, including 30 against Louisville. Containing Wong as a scorer will be crucial for the Hokies if they want to sweep the Canes.
Another Hurricane to look out for is Stony Brook transfer Elijah Olaniyi, who has settled in with Miami over the last few weeks. Olaniyi scored a season-best 21 points in the Canes’ upset win over Duke on Monday on 8-of-10 shooting. The six-foot-five senior has turned into a legitimate complement for Wong on the offensive end.
Despite Wong’s ability to score at a high clip and Olaniyi’s recent success, the rest of the Hurricanes’ offense hasn’t been very impressive. Miami shoots below 30% from long range and ranks 167th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency this season.
Tech looks to get back to its defensive ways from last week when the Hokies held Notre Dame and UVA to season-lows in points, both with 51. However, against Pittsburgh, Tech gave up its season-high of 83 points, including 52 in the second half.
The Hokies wasted a career performance from star Keve Aluma against the Panthers as well. He put up a career-high in points with 30, beating his mark from Saturday’s game against Virginia when he had 29. After a cold stretch through the middle of January, Aluma has reemerged as a dominant force in the paint.
Along with Aluma, sophomore Hunter Cattoor has stepped up huge in the absence of Tyrece Radford over the last two weeks. Cattoor has become the sixth man for Tech with Jalen Cone joining the starting lineup. With a minutes increase, Cattoor has scored in double-digits in the last three games and was the only bench player to score against Pittsburgh.
After the loss to Pittsburgh, the Hokies dropped below Florida State in the ACC standings, but are still just one of two teams in the conference with seven or more league wins. Facing the Hurricanes, who sit at 13th in the standings, this is a perfect opportunity for Tech to try and get back within a game of Virginia.
After playing in Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon, the Hokies will enjoy a week off barring any last-minute schedule changes. After Florida State, Tech’s next scheduled opponent, had to pause their program due to COVID-19 concerns, the Hokies’ will next suit up in Cassell Coliseum against Louisville on February 13.