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The Big Preview: UVA basketball heads to Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech

Wahoos get set for another road rematch.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers face another road rematch, heading down to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech. The Hoos are now riding a seven game winning streak, while the Hokies are coming off a tough loss at Miami. The Hokies had won two in a row, following a seven game losing streak. That included a close win over Duke and a blowout over Syracuse.

Here is our preview from the previous game.

This was an interesting game. Virginia opened up a nine point lead inside of eight minutes into the game. Virginia Tech stormed back to tie the game at 26. Virginia closed the half on a 14-5 run to go into halftime with a nine point lead.

The Hokies clawed back again, getting within two a couple of times. Another Virginia run opened up an eight point lead. The Hokies got back to within four this time before Virginia put the game away with yet another run to build up an 11 point lead with just over 6 and a half remaining. The Hokies got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

It was a strange game, closer than the final score indicates. The Hoos were led, not surprisingly, by their backcourt. Kihei Clark scored 20 points, along with five assists. Reece Beekman had 11 points, seven assists and zero turnovers. And Armaan Franklin had 15 points and five rebounds. The trio shot 5/11 from downtown, 12/22 from inside the arc, and 7/7 from the FT line. That is outstanding.

Wow! Did you even know Reece could do that? Obviously, this is the biggest highlight for the Virginia backcourt. But it was far from the only one.

The Hokies have a solid backcourt. Hunter Cattoor can shoot as well as anybody in the nation (43% from downtown). Sean Pedulla can score (team leading 15.5 ppg). But neither of them are good defenders.

Clark stayed on Pedulla most of the game, and really gave him fits. Pedulla had 10 points on 4/9 shooting, but nothing came easy.

Clark had a couple of strips of Pedulla in this one. The Hokies ran their offense through senior forward Justyn Mutts (12 points, 7 assists) for much of the game.

Cattoor was more successful, scoring 11 points on 4/8 shooting (3/6 from three). But the Hokie who had the most success was junior Darius Maddox.

Jayden doesn’t get out far enough on the hedge to bother Maddox and then he also inadvertently sets a screen on Franklin. That’s still a tough shot. Maddox has missed the past two games due to a “family matter.” No word on whether he might return for this game.

The Hokies shot the ball very well, knocking down 12/27 from downtown. Freshman MJ Collins came into the game shooting 16% (!) from three, but went 2/3 in this game. Beginning with that game, Collins has made eight of his last thirteen attempts and is up to 30% for the season. With Maddox out, Collins has moved into the starting lineup.

That’s a tough shot, over a bigger defender in Ben Vander Plas. You can’t see it in this clip, but this was a pick-and-pop look with Grant Basile and Sean Pedulla. BVP isn’t able to get back to Basile quick enough, so he would’ve had an open look. So Franklin leaves Collins to close out on Basile, leaving Collins open. BVP scrambles back into the play, but that’s a matchup problem with Collins. A step-back three is probably a shot Tony Bennett will take in that situation.

Here is the same look from the Hokies later in the game. Nobody closes out on Basile and he knocks down the open triple. On this one, BVP hesitates and is too late to get back onto Basile. Gotta be better than that.

Basile had 24 points against Duke and 25 against Syracuse. But he had just 12 points on 4/11 (36%) shooting against Virginia, largely due to the defense of Ryan Dunn. Dunn had just three points on 1/4 shooting, but he had three rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Given how well VT shot the ball, Dunn’s defense on the interior was a huge part of this game.

At the time, Dunn’s 24 minutes were a career high. He surpassed that number against Wake Forest, but has played far fewer minutes in the past two games. There may be other reasons for this, but one main reason is that both BC and Syracuse have seven-footers who can score in the paint. For all of Dunn’s talents, he’s just not strong enough to hang inside with that kind of size. Not yet, anyway.

The Hokies don’t really have that. Freshman Lynn Kidd is the closest the Hokies have to that player, but he’s not quite that big, and he’s just not ready to be a go-to scorer inside. So we may see big Dunn minutes again.

Along with a game in Chapel Hill, this is the toughest game remaining on the schedule. A win could put the Wahoos on top of the ACC standings, depending on the outcome of Clemson-Miami later in the day. It won’t be an easy win, but it’d certainly be a big one.