With a highly competitive contest on Monday night in the books, I’ll take a look at what you may have missed, with a preview of Tuesday night’s lone game between Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
Here we go.
#12 North Carolina 93 Syracuse 83
Syracuse came out firing in the first half, as Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas got off to hot starts for the visiting Orange, leading to a 40-35 halftime lead over the Tar Heels. Despite Rakeem Christmas finishing with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Trevor Cooney tallying 28 points on 10-26 shooting, there was just too much offense from the Tar Heels in the second half.
Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams made a spectacular lineup change, which could end up revolutionizing the Tar Heels season. Williams moved Marcus Paige off the ball for most of the second half, as he brought sophomore guard Nate Britt off the bench to handle a majority of the ball handling duties. The results were spectacular. Britt ended the game with a career-high 17 points on 5-7 shooting, while Marcus Paige scored 22 points, while adding 8 assists and 6 rebounds, as the ‘Heels blew by Syracuse by outscoring the Orange 58-43 in the second half to secure the victory. Let’s hear it for the zonebuster!
Nate Britt has a career-high 14 points for the Tar Heels off the bench. He had 11 in the previous 3 games combined.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 27, 2015
And now, to Tuesday night’s lone ACC match-up.
Pittsburgh (13-7, 3-4, RPI: 80) Vs. Virginia Tech (8-11, 0-6, RPI: 211), 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU
Their Last Game
Terry Rozier’s 26 points were too much for the hometown Pitt Panthers to overcome, as the Louisville Cardinals ran the Panthers out of the gym by a final score of 80-68.
The Hokies once led by as many as 10 in the second half on Sunday against #2 Virginia. It was without a doubt Virginia Tech’s best showing of the season, but talent eventually won out, as the Cavaliers used a strong run in the final minutes to edge the Hokies 50-47 in Blacksburg.
Players To Watch
F Jamel Artis, Pittsburgh
Jamel Artis has been on fire of late for the Panthers. The junior forward has averaged 19.7 points per game on 56% shooting over his last three contests against Georgia Tech, Duke, and Louisville. Save Georgia Tech, those are not bad numbers against two Top 10 teams. Virginia Tech is young, but has one glaring problem: lack of frontcourt depth. With the Hokies thin down low, Artis should have an excellent opportunity to continue his offensive dominance on Tuesday night.
G Adam Smith, Virginia Tech
Adam Smith led the Hokies to a near upset over #2 Virginia at home on Sunday, as he scored 15 points on 5-12 shooting. Smith is shooting a respectable 44% from the field this season, but with leading scorer Justin Bibbs out of the lineup due to a concussion, Tech needs Smith to be more consistent, especially from three, where he is just 3-14 over his past two games. If Smith can connect on somewhere in the realm of his season average of 43% from beyond the arc against Pittsburgh, the Hokies should have an excellent chance to win.
The Game And Prediction
Pittsburgh has some strong frontline talent, with both Michael Young and Jamel Artis playing well for Jamie Dixon’s young team. They combine for nearly a third of Pitt’s points per game, and their post play is where the Panthers will clearly hold an advantage on Tuesday night, as Virginia Tech is thin in the paint and short on big men to rotate in and out of the lineup. The Hokies, however, are coming off of an outstanding defensive effort against UVA, in which they neutralized the Cavaliers’ obvious size advantage by alternating between a 2-3 and 3-2 zone defense. If Tech brings the same defensive intensity on Tuesday night that they brought against the ‘Hoos on Sunday, they should have an excellent chance to pull an upset, as the Panthers are only shooting 43.7% from the field, which is 168th in the country.
It should be an interesting chess match between two well established coaches in Buzz Williams and Jamie Dixon, and at the very least, this will be a well-coached contest between two teams trying to establish some positive momentum in conference play, which has been difficult to find for both schools thus far. The Panthers enter as a -4 point road favorite, but it seems like Williams and the Hokies might be on to something defensively, especially after how they looked against one of the nation’s best teams on Sunday. I like the Hokies to find a way at home to capture their first conference win of the season, in an upset over the visiting Panthers.
Virginia Tech 58 Pittsburgh 52