GAME NOTES: ACC action tips off in the Sunshine State on Sunday, as the Virginia Tech Hokies meet in the Miami Hurricanes in a conference showdown at the BankUnited Center.
James Johnson's second season at the helm in Blacksburg has gotten off to a decent start, as the Hokies are 6-3 on the year. All six of Tech's wins have come at home and in fact this game represents the first true road test of the season for the Hokies, who enter with a three-game win streak in tow. Virginia Tech's last contest resulted in an 81-63 victory over Winthrop.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes officially begin defense of their ACC crown in this game. Early returns aren't very encouraging for a repeat performance, as this year's team is much different than the one that took the conference by storm a year ago. Miami is 5-4 on the season and comes in off a 60-49 loss to Nebraska in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
This marks the 24th all-time meeting in this series. Miami holds a 13-10 advantage thanks to wins in three straight meetings.
Jarell Eddie had a career-performance in Tech's win over Winthrop. The senior forward netted a career-high 34 points, thanks in part to six 3-pointers. Fellow forward C.J. Barksdale added 13 points and guard Devin Wilson added 11 for the Hokies, who shot over 60 percent from the floor and owned a huge edge in rebounding (37-22).
Eddie has done it all for Virginia Tech this season, with the ability to score both inside and out. He is converting 45.7 percent from the field overall, with a better average from behind the arc (.500), resulting in a team-high 18.8 ppg. Eddie is also the team's top rebounder, grabbing just under seven boards per outing (6.9). Adam Smith missed the last game with a calf strain, but he brings 15.0 ppg to the table when healthy. Ben Emelogu (14.3 ppg) also didn't play against Winthrop due to injury, but like Smith, is a definite asset from the perimeter. Barksdale (11.5 ppg) rounds out the top scoring threats for Tech. When at full strength, the Hokies are a formidable offensive squad, averaging 79.4 ppg.
A shortage of scoring depth has been an early concern for the defending ACC champs, as Miami is averaging a meager 63.9 ppg this season and doing so on a mere .406 shooting percentage. Rion Brown is the team's top offensive threat, but his 13.8 ppg could certainly be much higher if not for his sub par shooting (.398 overall, .262 behind the arc). Garrius Adams (10.7 ppg) is the only other double-figure scorer on the roster at this time, although Donnavan Kirk (9.2 ppg) and James Kelly (9.0 ppg) aren't far off the mark.
A slow start doomed the Hurricanes against Nebraska, as the team shot an ugly 24 percent from the floor in the first half and trailed at intermission 22-13. Despite a much better showing after the break, Miami couldn't recover. Brown was the only player to produce much, as he finished with just over half of Miami's points in the game, netting 25 on 8-of-14 shooting, which included five 3-pointers. No one else was able to add more than five points to the cause for Miami.
The Hurricanes have split four games at home this season, so relying on a homecourt advantage isn't really a bonus here. Despite the fact that Virginia Tech hasn't played a road game yet, Eddie and company will present real problems for Miami, which will probably begin defense of its league championship with the loss.
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