Can the Hokies slow down Jordan Williams again?
Even though Maryland forward Jordan Williams kept his streak of double-doubles alive during Virginia Tech's 74-57 victory at Comcast Center last month, the talk after the game surrounded how much the Terrapins struggled getting him the ball facing the Hokies' 2-3 zone.
Williams had just one field goal before halftime and finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds as forward Victor Davila held his own underneath. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech's perimeter players cut off passing lanes and made it difficult for Williams to catch the ball cleanly in the post. Simply put, the Hokies forced Maryland to beat them from the outside, and the Terrapins didn't have the shooters to do it.
The question as we approach tonight's 8 p.m. rematch is can the Hokies duplicate that sort of performance again?
"You’re not really gonna stop Jordan Williams; you’re just gonna try to slow him down and keep him off the offensive glass and make him work as hard as he can," Coach Seth Greenberg said Monday. "Because he is gonna get his.”
What may have gotten lost since Williams was largely a non-factor in the first matchup is that he may be the player best suited to expose the Hokies' Achilles' Heel: front-court depth.
For the most part, Virginia Tech has been fortunate since conference play began -- thanks primarily to playing a lot of zone -- that neither Davila nor forward Jeff Allen have been in much foul trouble. On Sunday against Georgia Tech, the Hokies even debuted a new 3-2 zone that Greenberg hinted he'll turn to as a change of pace from now on.
But it's the potential for foul trouble, more than just Williams's unique skill set down low, that dictates why the Hokies must limit his touches in the paint with some unique strategies.
Because if either Davila or Allen has to spend a good chunk of minutes on the bench, Greenberg doesn't have much to turn to in terms of production. Not only do the Hokies have no reserve taller than 6 feet 6, their bench has been outscored 76-13 the past three games. That margin could be even more lopsided considering all five of Virginia Tech's bench points against the Yellow Jackets came in garbage time when the game had long been decided.
Greenberg, though, believes statistics shouldn't be the only indication of whether the Hokies bench is performing well.
"I would like for those guys to step up and make shots … but you guys and the average fan look at productivity just in terms of points and rebounds and assists," Greenberg said. "I look at it, 'Are they helping us maintain where we’re at? Are they making the right decisions? Are they in the right place defensively?'"
One thing is for certain: neither team can afford to lose this game. Maryland (RPI No. 90) may need to win out to have any shot at an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Hokies (RPI No. 66) may not see their bubble completely burst with a setback, but it losing at home to a team below them in the RPI would certainly put them on that course.
| February 15, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
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