Virginia Tech focuses on stopping Maryland's Jordan Williams
When Virginia Tech returns to Comcast Center on Thursday night to face sophomore Jordan Williams and Maryland, it won't be the first time the Hokies have been confronted with a dynamic front-court presence. They can only hope, though, that they've found a better solution than what they've used already this season.
With just eight scholarship players remaining -- and one that is taller than 6 feet 7 -- Virginia Tech has been decimated by quality big men this year. Last week in a loss to North Carolina, forwards Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds. Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, a 6-10 forward, went off for 29 points when the Boilermakers defeated Virginia Tech earlier this season. The very next game, Virginia's Mike Scott finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds when the Cavaliers scored a road upset at Cassell Coliseum.
But the 6-10, 260-pound Willams may be the most physical of the bunch. His great hands and throwback post-up game have drawn raves from Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg this week, who called Williams "a homeless Wes Unseld" on Tuesday. Williams is currently averaging 18.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
"He’s just a great rebounder," Greenberg said. "He rebounds balls out of his area. He’s gotten in great shape. He’s strong. He carves out space. He runs the court a lot better than you would think he runs the court. He’s got a big body and terrific hands and he pursues the ball. That’s a pretty good combination when you’re 6-10 and ."
Of late, Virginia Tech has been playing mostly a 2-3 zone on defense, and given Maryland's poor three-point shooting -- the Terps have the second-worst three-point percentage in the ACC this year -- the Hokies will likely pack it in once again in hopes of slowing down Williams.
Senior Malcolm Delaney said that unlike Syracuse's 2-3 zone, the Hokies try to compact the middle to overcome their size disadvantage, leaving three-point shots open on the wings. The Orange, meanwhile, give up the high post and pressure the wings.
The primary goal of the Hokies' zone is to help forward Jeff Allen avoid foul trouble and give 6-8 forward Victor Davila more help defense when he's defending the post. It will, after all, take a team effort if Virginia Tech is to avoid Williams getting his 12th-straight double-double.
"We just know that the three-point shot is not something we have to key on, as [compared] to some of the other previous games that we played," Delaney said. "Like Wake Forest just shot threes. Our focus is gonna be trying to stop Jordan Williams in the post, because if we go zone, we know they’re gonna try to get it down low. I’m pretty sure our big players will be ready for that."
Maryland had a 12-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in its 74-66 loss at No. 7 Villanova this past weekend, but Williams went more than five minutes without attempting a shot and the Terrapins didn't score a single point during a 7-minute 14-second stretch of the second half.
So, if the Hokies can somehow limit Williams touches, a road victory could be there for the taking.
| January 20, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
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