Louisville-Virginia Tech Preview
The No. 11 Hokies stifled then-No. 23 North Carolina State throughout a 47-24 road victory that served notice to the Atlantic Coast Conference entering Monday's visit from No. 16 Louisville.
Virginia Tech (18-3, 7-2) and Louisville (16-6, 7-2) are in the thick of a tight conference race. The Hokies are seeking their fourth straight victory after hounding the Wolfpack, holding them to 16.7 percent shooting (9 for 54) from the field and the fewest points by a ranked team since the NCAA added the shot clock in 1985.
"It still doesn't seem real," Hokies guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker told reporters after the game. "Our coaches are freaking out. It was one of those days for them where they couldn't make (shots) and we just kept getting stops. And we just kept getting more confident and growing more powerful."
"The tenacity and the fight that our guys played with was remarkable," Hokies coach Buzz Williams added, quipping that the team might just stop for some celebratory ice cream on its four-hour bus ride home to Blacksburg, Va.
Virginia Tech had not limited an opponent to fewer than 25 points since 1959, when it thumped Washington & Lee, 105-24.
Louisville, which has scored no fewer than 58 points in a game this season while averaging 79.1, will aim to avoid some of the struggles that doomed it on Saturday. The Cardinals saw a six-game winning streak end with a 79-69 home loss to No. 9 North Carolina.
The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle, 49-32, while scoring 18 second-chance points and forcing 11 turnovers to jolt Louisville from a share of the ACC lead.
"We just got bullied," Cardinals point guard Christen Cunningham told reporters after the game. "I mean, we got punked. Seems like Carolina, their staple is two things: transition and rebounding, which we knew and just didn't perform like we needed to."
Cardinals coach Chris Mack said he was "at a little bit of a loss" to explain his team's poor effort on the glass. It was just the second time an opponent has out-rebounded Louisville in conference play this season.
"I've always been a big believer that when the shot goes up, you block out the person that you've been guarding for the possession," Mack said. "I've tried to instill that into our team and it's ebbed and flowed. We've had some games against really good offensive rebounding teams that we took away that component of the game, and we've had nights like tonight."
Jordan Nwora is Louisville's leading scorer (17.9) and rebounder (7.7). Dwayne Sutton (10.6) and Cunningham (10.4) also have double-figure scoring averages.
Walker-Alexander averages 17.6 points per game to pace the Hokies, while Justin Robinson (14.4), Ahmed Hill (13.4) and Kerry Blackshear Jr. (12.7) follow. Blackshear is the team's leading rebounder at 6.8 per game.
Louisville swept the season series from Virginia Tech last season, winning by eight points at home and seven on the road. The Hokies are 11-0 at Cassel Coliseum this season as they begin a three-game homestand that also includes visits from ACC foes Clemson and Georgia Tech.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019