Virginia Tech to face Miami in ACC tournament
GREENSBORO, N.C. – While Miami was cruising to an 83-62 win over Wake Forest here on Thursday afternoon, three Virginia Tech assistant coaches sat along the baseline. They talked and munched cheese-slathered nachos as they scouted their next opponent.
And they had to like what they saw unfolding in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
With its breezy win over the fifth-seeded Demon Deacons, the 12th-seeded Hurricanes (19-12) will meet the fourth-seeded Virginia Tech (23-7) on Friday in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. It is a favorable match up for the Hokies.
Asked after the win what Miami would have to beat the Hokies, guard James Dews said, “Just go there with energy, and that’s what we did today.”
The Hurricanes were in control from the opening buzzer, scoring on five of their first seven possessions to strike a tone. Miami tailed for only 32 seconds, committed only 8 turnovers and built a lead thanks to 47.1-percent shooting from three-point range.
“From the outset, we started the way we needed to play,” Miami Coach Frank Haith said. “I thought the key to our game was our ability to not turn the ball over and get back in transition defense. And obviously we were we were making some shots, which slowed them down, too.”
In whipping the Demon Deacons, Miami displayed evidence for what could make it a difficult team to handle. The Hurricanes live and die by the three-pointer, and when they are on, they can stockpile points in quick busts.
The Hokies have to worry about Dews, who was shooting 36.8 percent from three-point range before Thursday's game. Also, Adrian Thomas was shooting 41.8 percent from three-point range, and Malcolm Grant was shooting 40.9 from behind the arc.
On Thursday, Miami did well playing without its primary scorer and leading rebounder, Dwayne Collins, who will also be unavailable on Friday because of a leg injury. The Hurricanes were undaunted by his absence, scoring 40 of their points in the paint.
Replacement forward Reggie Johnson led Miami with 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field. Johnson put a definitive stamp on the Hurricanes’ win with a monster dunk with 8 minutes 52 seconds left on the clock. It was insult to injury.
“Dwayne Collins is like my big brother ever since Day 1 on campus,” Johnson said. “He’s in my ear all the time, constantly giving me positive energy to go out there and help my team in.”
While Miami’s three-point barrage can be tough to handle, Virginia Tech will likely benefit from the outcome of Thursday’s opening-round game. Wake Forest seemed to be the more difficult opponent.
Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg will be able to sleep easier knowing he won’t have to show up on Friday and see guard Ishmael Smith sprinting the floor in transition or dominating forward Al-Farouq Aminu bullying the Hokies’ forwards in the paint.
Speaking about Virginia Tech, Haith said, “They’re a tough team, very aggressive”
Virginia Tech and Miami split their season meetings, with each team winning on its home court. On Jan. 13, the Hokies built a 27-point halftime lead and cruised to a win. But they lost at Miami on Jan. 31 after falling behind by 19 points in the first half.
The two teams will meet again on Friday for the right to play in the ACC tournament semifinals. And for the Hokies, it is a match up that should make them smile.
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