The Hokies have a chance to redeem themselves after a bad loss Wednesday night, as they take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Unlike the Hokies, Jacksonville State has already played three games this season, having won two of them. They have shown the ability to be potent on offense, scoring an impressive 86.7 PPG, including a 96 point outburst in in a blowout against Oakwood. However, the Gamecocks defense isn’t as impressive. They’ve given up 72.3 PPG over three games against weak competition, and the Hokies should be able to take advantage of that.
Zach LeDay’s performance against Alabama State was a huge positive to take away from the loss. On Wednesday, he will have an opportunity to repeat that performance against a small Gamecocks squad. Jacksonville State’s top MPG leaders are essentially all guards, and they lack depth in the frontcourt. If they can take advantage, the Hokies can dominate both the glass and the paint. However, it won’t be that easy. Jacksonville State leads the country in offensive rebounds and ranks third in total rebounds, despite their lack of size, meaning the Gamecocks work tirelessly to chase down loose balls.
With their length, Kerry Blackshear Jr. and LeDay are capable of creating second opportunities for the Hokies’ offense by crashing the offensive glass. But they will have to match the Gamecocks’ intensity to create an advantage for the Hokies. The big men of Virginia Tech figure to be in the spotlight in this matchup.
Like last week, Virginia Tech matches up well defensively with the opponent (or so we thought). Wednesday night’s game will pit deep backcourt against deep backcourt. The player to watch on the Gamecocks’ roster is Malcolm Drumwright. The 6-3 sophomore guard leads the team in scoring per game and assists. Seth Allen and Justin Bibbs will have to expend plenty of energy chasing Drumwright around, so I would not be surprised if Buzz implemented a different rotation to account for him.
Other than Drumwright, the Gamecocks feature four other players who are averaging double figures in points. Jared Hamilton is listed as a guard, but he has been effective as a wing presence as a freshman, averaging 14 PPG. He also is a tremendous rebounder, grabbing over 9 boards a game which leads the team, so Chris Clarke will have to be ready to guard him. Their sharpshooter from downtown is JaQuil Townser, who is shooting 46.7% from behind the arc. If the Hokies get caught ballwatching, Townser will punish them. Buzz Williams should be preaching eye discipline to his players throughout the week. If the Hokies can handle those three players on defense and make someone else beat them, they should be in good shape.
Buzz Williams was most likely furious at the Hokies’ defensive performance against Alabama State, which gives me reason to believe the players will play with fire to ensure they won’t give up 85 points this week. However, the Gamecocks are on fire offensively and with multiple scoring threats, it may be too much for the Hokies to handle. Offensively, the Hokies may not be able to score 82, but they have the talent to score the basketball. Ultimately, coaching will make the biggest impact, especially coming off a tough loss.
Hokies win, 75-71.