No ACC men’s basketball team shoots the ball better from beyond the 3-point line than Virginia Tech. No ACC men’s basketball team defends the 3-point line better than Virginia.
When Virginia (10-2, 2-0 ACC) hosts Virginia Tech (10-3, 1-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon, 3-point shooting and ball movement will be critical. Under new head coach Mike Young, the Hokies have the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the ACC, and they’re shooting 39.4% from beyond the arc. Point guard Wabissa Bede leads the conference with a 4.2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
When Virginia Tech plays, fans of good offensive teams should sit back, grab some popcorn and enjoy.
Tony Bennett’s UVa squad wins differently than Virginia Tech. While the Hokies make shots efficiently, the Cavaliers rank last in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage at 27.5%. It’s the defensive efficiency, where the Cavaliers rank No. 1 nationally, that leads to UVa victories.
Turnovers have also plagued Virginia at times this season. Poor shooting and turnovers lead to offensive woes.
“I think we’re getting shots, we just need to make them and keep taking open shots,” Virginia guard Kihei Clark said after the team’s 65-56 win over Navy. “I think it’s partly taking care of the ball because we don’t even get a shot up sometimes. We just need to take care of the ball and keep taking open shots.”
Virginia finally hit some of its open shots against the Midshipmen. The Cavaliers shot above 50% from the field (53.2%) and above 40% from the 3-point line (42.1%) for the first time all season.
Clark controlled the game after a pair of sloppy performances. Against Navy, the point guard finished with 13 assists to just two turnovers. As a team, Virginia tallied 18 assists and only committed eight turnovers.
Jay Huff performed well in 23 minutes, scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. He also added four blocks and four rebounds.
Braxton Key excelled in the post, finishing with 15 points. He added a few thunderous dunks with the game in doubt that helped engage the crowd. Virginia used those plays to pull away from a pesky Navy squad. Key says he “feels great,” and he’s gaining more confidence playing with a cast on his left wrist.
“He, Mamadi and Kihei have the most experience, so without him we were trying to find it,” Bennett said. “But seeing him emerge and play, he’s steadily gotten more time and played better and we needed it. I just keep challenging him to be as great as he can defensively, all over the glass and then keep finding ways to be effective offensively and he did that. It definitely steadies us as much as we can be steadied at times.”
Against a quality opponent like Virginia Tech, Virginia needs its experienced players like Key to step up on both ends.
Effectively defending players like redshirt freshman Landers Nolley II and avoiding long scoring stretches will be crucial for the Wahoos. Given Nolley’s height, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Key guard Virginia Tech’s star.
The Hokies are a better test than Navy, ranking 177 spots better than the Midshipmen in the KenPom rankings.
Virginia Tech is riding a four-game winning streak, and it beat a ranked Michigan State squad on a neutral floor earlier this season. The Hokies were picked to finish 14th in the ACC preseason poll, but they look like anything but the second-worst ACC team.
With a solid offensive team coming to town, the Cavaliers need to play more like they did against Navy to keep pace with a high-powered Virginia Tech attack.
“We put a lot of stuff together, and we need to make sure we keep that up,” Huff said. “There were times in the huddle where, rather than pointing fingers and asking what happened, we knew what we did and in the second half we tightened it up.”