Late addition Virginia Tech looks to upset No. 3 Villanova

NCAA

No. 3 Villanova will look for its third consecutive victory to open the season when it battles Virginia Tech on Saturday in a newly rescheduled game at Uncasville, Conn.

The Wildcats (2-0) captured the 2K Empire Classic with an 83-74 win over No. 18 Arizona State on Thursday.

The Hokies (1-0) took the Saturday matchup against Villanova in place of Temple, which was forced to pause all basketball activities due to COVID-19 issues.

In Villanova’s win over the Sun Devils, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored a career-high 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting and sophomore Justin Moore registered his first-ever double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“This was a team effort,” Robinson-Earl said after the victory. “We have a lot of scorers on our team. It just so happened that it was my night. It was definitely a team effort.”

After rallying from a nine-point, second-half deficit in the opener against Boston College, Villanova responded with a stellar performance against highly regarded Arizona State.

“We did a better job defensively and Jeremiah was outstanding,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “There’s still a lot for us to work on, but this was a good step for us.”

Villanova entered the season with high expectations even with the loss of Saddiq Bey, a first-round NBA draft pick. Robinson-Earl has already proven in the first two games that he’s more than ready to step into a leadership role.

Robinson-Earl had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Boston College and then was dominant against Arizona State.

“We’re kind of a new team in a way with Saddiq leaving,” Robinson-Earl said. “Guys from last year are getting new roles, so we’re just learning as we’re going.”

Virginia Tech won its season opener 77-62 over Radford on Wednesday.

Keve Aluma scored a career-high 19 points and Nahiem Alleyne contributed 14 for the Hokies, who pulled away after leading by just six points at halftime.

“It was just good to get back out there,” Aluma, a transfer from Wofford, said after playing in his first career game at Virginia Tech. “I wasn’t too worried about points. I just wanted to get the win.”

Some of the choppy play can be attributed to the lack of practices and scrimmages. Issues with COVID-19 have affected every team throughout the country.

“We tried to simulate a game-day experience last Saturday with the noise, the distanced bench, you know, all that sort of thing,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said. “I probably did not handle that very well. Shot selection was not very good at all the first 10 minutes. I take a lot of responsibility there.”

Aluma almost certainly will be the key to Virginia Tech’s success this season. He will look to continue his solid play against the Wildcats and beyond this season.

“I can tell you right now, if you think he’s going to average 16 points in the ACC this year, you’re wrong,” Young said. “He’s not that kind of guy. But his toughness and his athleticism, his second jump … he’s a really good shot-blocker, and his work on the glass — I thought when I brought him here, he’s another piece of the puzzle. He was a piece of the puzzle down there, and he’ll be the same here.”

–Field Level Media

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