CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Following a tough loss to UCONN, and after a long week of finals, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (8-2, 0-0 A10) head south to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (7-4, 0-1 ACC) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The game will tip off from the Spectrum Center at 4 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.
“Wherever we go, the Bonaventure supporters are there for us,” St. Bonaventure Coach Mark Schmidt said. “Charlotte won’t be any different. We have a ton of Charlotte alums who are really passionate guys. We are excited to play in a great arena against a great opponent and hopefully our crowd can help us.”
Back in the late 1990s, Virginia Tech spent five years in the mighty Atlantic 10 conference. Bona won two straight games versus the Hokies before they left for the Big East in 2000. The teams squared off again in 2002, with the Bonnies winning once more.
As such, the Bonnies and the Hokies have played each other 16 times, with Virginia Tech holding a 10-to-6 series lead.
The last time these two teams played was November 27, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Hokies prevailed by nine, winning 73-to-64. Andrew Nicholson, a senior at the time, had just nine points while Demetrius Conger scored 23.
The year before that, these two teams played a classic at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York. Facing a thirteen-point halftime deficit, the Bonnies rallied to force overtime in front of a raucous Rochester crowd on the night before Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Bona could not pull off the upset, losing 76-to-68. Nicholson had 21.
Thus, these two teams have a decent amount of history, even though they have not squared off in over a decade.
With that, let’s take a look at the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Scouting the Virginia Tech Hokies
Like the Bonnies, the Hokies are rolling into Charlotte coming off of a tough loss. Last Sunday, Virginia Tech lost to the Dayton Flyers at UD Arena 62-to-57 in an absolute slugfest.
The Hokies, who give up just 57.2 points per game (PPG), rank 35th in the country in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Schmidt remarked. “[Virginia Tech] Coach [Mike] Young is a great basketball mind… they are a really [solid] half-court defensive team. They try to keep the ball above the foul line. They have a big guy inside who can block some shots… and they defend the three-point line.”
To this point, Virginia Tech has allowed its opponents to shoot just 25.4% from beyond the arc, which ranks eighth in the country, per KenPom.
Anchoring the Virginia Tech defense is Keve Aluma, a 6-foot-9 redshirt senior from Berlin, Maryland.
“He’s a really good player,” Schmidt said when asked about Aluma. “He’s a First Team All-ACC Player for a reason. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter, he can take you off the bounce, he has a back-to-the-basket game, so he can do it all. He’ll be really hard to guard both inside and outside.”
Aluma currently averages 14.4 PPG, which leads the team. He scored 14 points in the loss to Dayton while also grabbing six rebounds. There have been only two games this season in which Aluma did not score in double-figures, which were two lop-sided victories over Maine and Merrimack.
Another forward who will likely have an impact on Friday’s game is Justyn Mutts, the 6-foot-7 senior from Millville, New Jersey.
Mutts, who averages 10.1 PPG and 7.4 rebounds per game, struggled in his last game at Dayton. He shot just 3-of-9 from the field and missed all four of his three-point attempts. But do not let that fool you, Mutts scored in double-figures in each of his three games leading up to the loss against the Flyers.
Three other Hokies to watch out for are Nahiem Alleyne, Hunter Cattoor, and Storm Murphy.
All three of these guards can shoot the lights out, which is why Virginia Tech currently ranks 14th in the country in three-point shooting percentage. To date, the Hokies have made 39.3% of their three-point attempts, according to KenPom.
Alleyne, a 6-foot-4 junior guard from Buford, Georgia, averages 11.1 PPG and has made 38% of his three-point attempts so far this season. With that said, even good shooters have poor nights. He only had two points at Dayton, shooting a tough 1-of-10 from the field.
Cattoor, who is also a junior guard, stands at 6-foot-3 and hails from Orlando, Florida. He currently averages 9.3 PPG and has made 39.7% of his three-point attempts so far. For his collegiate career, Cattoor has shot 41.1% from downtown.
And then there’s Murphy, who’s the team’s floor general. He played four seasons at Wofford before transferring to Virginia Tech as a fifth-year senior. Murphy is currently shooting 34.1% from three.
Overall, Virginia Tech plays tremendous defense and lives and dies by the three. In the loss to Dayton, in which the Hokies scored a season low 57 points, Virginia Tech shot 6-of-22 from beyond the arc, which equates to 27.1%.
Both teams are coming into this game hungry for a victory.
For Bonaventure, that “hunger” started immediately following the loss to UCONN.
“We’re straight up hungrier,” senior guard Jaren Holmes told the media last Saturday after his team dropped to 8-2.
Of course, last Saturday, the Bonnies were without their star point guard Kyle Lofton. According to sources, Lofton has practiced this week and has a chance to play Friday against Virginia Tech.
“He’ll be a game-time decision,” Schmidt said about Lofton. “We’ll see how he does in shoot around tomorrow. We gotta do what’s best for him.”
If Lofton plays, which I have feeling that he will, the Bonnies have a good chance against a solid ACC program.
For Bona to win, they need to play like they did defensively in the first half against UCONN, in which they allowed the Huskies to score just 17 points against their set defense. They also need to lock down the perimeter and not turn the ball over on offense.
I think Lofton returns to the hardwood, plays at least a solid 20 minutes, and the Bonnies emerge victorious in front of a sizable Brown and White crowd in Charlotte.
St. Bonaventure 62, Virginia Tech 61
Jack Milko received his B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He is now working to get his M.A. in Sports Journalism from St. Bonaventure University. A lifelong fan of the Bonnies, Jack covers the team for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter for more Bonnies coverage at @Jack_Milko.
Featured image courtesy of Dan Nelligan, St. Bonaventure Class of 2020, who serves as a photographer for @A10Talk.