The tough schedule continues for the Virginia Tech Hokies Men's Basketball team (8-10, 0-5) following a 85-60 loss to the #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-2, 6-1). Virginia Tech was able to hang close for one half of basketball, trailing by just ten at the half. However, in the second half, the elite talent of Fighting Irish took over, led by NBA prospect Jerian Grant who had 18 points and 6 assists to set the pace for Notre Dame. The Hokies again were outrebounded, this time 43-29, and continued to struggle to control the paint as Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste had a dominating performance down low with 16 points and 8 rebounds.
The Hokies frontcourt took a big hit this past Thursday as they lost their number one big man Joey Van Zegeren for good.
Next up for the Hokies is arguably the best team in the country. The #2 Virginia Cavaliers (18-0, 6-0) is one of two undefeated teams remaining in the country (along with the Kentucky Wildcats) and they have been rolling through the ACC with their flawless execution and tenacious defense. The Cavaliers rank first in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 49.3 points per game, and have held three teams under 28 points (Rutgers, Harvard, and Georgia Tech). The Cavaliers are fresh off of a 57-28 dismantling of Georgia Tech, and will come into Sunday's rivalry matchup beaming with confidence.
The best hope for the Hokies is that the Cavaliers walk into Cassell flat and overconfident, as they could overlook the Hokies in anticipation of their big College Gameday matchup next Saturday night with the #5 Duke Blue Devils (16-2, 4-2). The Hokies will then have to hope that their three-point shooters catch fire and that they can break down the dominating defense of the Cavaliers. In the Cavaliers' most competitive contests their opponents stayed close with stellar 3 point shooting. The Davidson Wildcats shot 11-28 from three, Notre Dame shot 10-24 from three, and the Miami Hurricanes shot 9-28 from three before falling in double overtime.
The Cavaliers are led by junior guards Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson, along with junior forward Anthony Gill. However, it is not the standout players that make the Cavaliers so elite; it is the outstanding execution on offense, and smothering defense, a staple that coach Tony Bennett has established at Virginia.
The Hokies hope to get leading scorer Justin Bibbs back (concussion), but if he is unable to return they will need strong performances from guards Adam Smith, Ahmed Hill, and Jalen Husdon to have any chance to compete with the Cavaliers. Ahmed HIll is coming off of a strong game against Notre Dame with 13 points and 5 rebounds, and Jalen Hudson took advantage of his first start against Notre Dame adding 12 points. Meanwhile, Adam Smith has fallen on a cold streak lately, and really needs to find his stroke on Sunday to fuel the upset.