Virginia Tech returns to Cassell Coliseum to host Syracuse eleven days after defeating the Orange in the Carrier Dome led by a breakout second half from Jalen Cone.
The Hokies (13-4, 4-2) are on a three-game win streak after defeating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, while the Orange (10-7, 3-3) have won two in a row at Virginia and against Boston College.
Syracuse has a chance to pick up another solid road win in conference play, while the Hokies can separate themselves from the rest of the ACC with a victory.
Here are three things to watch for Saturday’s contest in Cassell.
Can the Hot Shooting Continue?
Against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech shot 49 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. In the Carrier Dome against Boston College, Syracuse shot 52 percent from the floor and 44 percent from downtown.
For the Hokies, it’s about finding Landers Nolley, Tyrece Radford, and Jalen Cone on offense. The trio combined for 57 of Tech’s 80 points (71.25 percent) against Wake.
In the first matchup against the Orange, Cone (19 pts) had a breakout performance while Nolley (13 pts, 4-14 FG) and Radford (7 pts, 2-2 FG) were quiet in the scoring column. Since then, Nolley’s scored 29 and 21, Cone’s scored 10 and 15 and Radford’s put up 18 and 21.
If the Hokies want to continue their winning ways, they’ve got to get those guys the ball.
As for Syracuse, Buddy Boeheim, Elijah Hughes and Joseph Girard have all scored in double figures in their last two games, with all three shooting better than 50 percent against Boston College.
If Syracuse wants to have success, Boeheim, Hughes and Girard are the three players that will pose the biggest threat to the Hokies. On the flip side, those are the three players the Hokies will have to be aware of in Cassell on Saturday. If either team is going to shoot well, those are the players they’ll go through.
Limit Points in the Paint
In the first matchup between the Hokies and the Orange, Syracuse scored 28 points in the paint. Against Boston College last time out, the Orange scored 33 down low.
Tech allowed 28 points in the paint against Wake Forest as well. It seems like that is a manageable number that the Hokies can allow and still have a productive defensive game.
Against Syracuse, the Hokies will have to rotate and double team well, while not getting into the early foul trouble like they did at Wake Forest. This Syracuse team is more talented down low than that Wake Forest team and will take advantage of that if Tech gives it to them.
Limit Foul Trouble
Both at Wake Forest and at Syracuse, the Hokies had one or two players in foul trouble throughout the game.
At Wake, it was the bigs – Horne and Ojiako got into early foul trouble so Branden Johnson saw some minutes. Ojiako eventually fouled out, as did Nolley. Bede finished with four fouls as well. Against Syracuse; Alleyne, Nolley and Horne all finished with three fouls, while Radford finished with four.
Against a tall and lengthy team like Syracuse, the Hokies cannot afford to sit Horne, Nolley, or even Ace rebounder Radford due to foul trouble.
Instead, driving to the rack (like they have in the past few games) and getting Syracuse’s bigs in foul trouble will be key for the Hokies. In the Carrier Dome, they forced Marek Dolezaj (6’10”) to foul out, while drawing four fouls each from Quincy Guerrier (6’7”) and Bourama Sidibe (6’10”).
Getting Syracuse’s bigs into foul trouble while limiting their own will be a big key for the Hokies. If they can do that, more things will open up on offense and they will be able to keep their most important players on the floor for longer periods of time.
The Hokies should be playing in front of a sold-out crowd in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday. In the last matchup, Tech got off to a cold start, but Jalen Cone provided the spark that boosted them to victory.
I think Tech will be well rested after their game on Tuesday and come out strong at home, doing enough on the boards and from behind the arc to scrape by the Orange.
Pick: Virginia Tech 71, Syracuse 64