How Virginia Tech Can Better Defend No. 6 UVa In Meeting No. 2

Virginia Tech and Hunter Cattoor have a big opportunity on their hands on Saturday with Reece Beekman and Virginia. (Jon Fleming)

In the first battle back on Jan. 18, Virginia bested Virginia Tech in Charlottesville, 78-68. On Saturday, the Hokies have a good opportunity to get even with the No. 6 Cavaliers. Dave O’Brien, Cory Alexander and Angel Gray have the call at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tech, playing with Hunter Cattoor for the first time since he fractured his elbow four weeks prior, was good offensively in the previous meeting. The squad was 52% from the floor in the first half, 49% for the game, and had 19 assists to eight turnovers. But UVa was better: 51% for the game with 19 assists to five miscues.

In part two of the Commonwealth Clash on Saturday afternoon in Cassell Coliseum, how can the Hokies better defend UVa?

First, let’s take a look at the team’s offensive numbers. In the five games since Cattoor returned, the team has shot above 49% four times. In the last three games, its marks were 57%, 53% and 57%. The 3-pointers found the bottom of the net, too – Tech averaged 10 made treys over the last three outings and was 30-of-68 (44.1%).

While taking care of the ball is certainly a place for improvement – Tech had 15 turnovers vs. Syracuse (to a season-high 26 assists) and 14 at Miami (to 14) – defense is key against UVa. In ACC play, opponents have shot 45.5%. That’s on par with the 2021-22 season (45.2%). Here is a breakdown by team:

(David Cunningham)

Percentage-wise, Miami on Tuesday was the Hokies’ worst defensive performance of the year in ACC play. Much of that is credit to the Hurricanes’ offense, which ranks 10th in the nation in adjusted efficiency.

Not far behind in that metric, though, is Virginia. The Cavaliers are 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency and had quite a night in the first chapter. So, how can the Hokies slow them down?

Here are two keys for Virginia Tech to improve defensively against Virginia:

Control Kihei Clark

A fifth-year senior, Clark makes UVa go. His assist rate is the best in the ACC and top-10 in D-I while his offensive rating is 23rd in the conference. 

Mike Young described him as “more explosive” this season after Tech’s loss at UVa, and his ability to go from zero to 100