HOKIES HOOPS CENTRAL: Virginia Tech (5-2) at Auburn (4-1) vs 915PM ESPN2

HOKIES HOOPS CENTRAL: Virginia Tech (5-2) at Auburn (4-1) vs 915PM ESPN2

Virginia Tech (5-2)
at Auburn (4-1)
November 29, 2023
Neville Arena
Auburn, AL
915 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Virginia Tech Sports Network

ESPN2
Play-by-Play: John Schriffen
Analyst: Daymeon Fishback

Local Radio
Virginia Tech Sports Network
Play-by-Play: Zach Mackey
Analyst: Mike Burnop

Current Spread: Tigers -9.5
Over/Under: -150.5

First Road Game
The Hokies play in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge at Auburn. The Hokies face the Tigers after a forgettable 84-50 loss to FAU. The Hokies were holding steady for much of the first half but the beginning of the second half was a complete shooting drought that quickly got out of hand.

The Auburn Tigers squad comes in 4-1. This will be the ninth meeting between the Hokies and Auburn. The Hokies are 2-6 with the last meeting a 73-63 loss in Puerto Rico in 1999.

The Tigers are coached by Bruce Pearl, who is in his tenth season at Auburn. The Tigers are 191-112 under Pearl. Auburn is his fourth head coaching job with assistant stops at Iowa and Stanford. He coached Southern Indiana, Milwaukee and Tennessee prior to Auburn. He received a three-year show cause ban after an NCAA investigation that started in 2008 but had additional violations in 2010. That ruling came down in 2011.

Auburn has been to the postseason in five seasons under Pearl but were also deemed ineligible for post season play in 2021. The Tigers opened their season with a loss to Baylor and then wins over SE Louisiana, Notre Dame, St Bonaventure and Alabama A&M.

Auburn had two transfers come in this season in SG Denver Jones and G/F Chaney Johnson. Jones is starting and Johnson comes off the bench for about 16 mpg. They signed two freshmen, including Aden Holloway, the 16th recruit in the class. He is their starting point guard and the second leading scorer.

The Tigers have only five players averaging more than 20 mpg but ten average at least 15 mpg. Auburn does not appear to have any injuries coming into this game. The starting five are Broome, Williams, Moore, Jones and either Holloway or Donaldson as the fifth starter. Pearl will sub early and often with the bench playing nearly 42% of total minutes.

Auburn under Pearl historically had played a 1-2-2 diamond full court press defense but changes in how fouls are called have forced him to relook that. Auburn will still use the press, just not constantly. They will, however, meet the Hokies at mid-court nearly every play. This will be very similar to how FAU defended against the Hokies which obviously did not go well. Auburn rebounds well defensively and creates around thirteen turnovers per contest.

Offensively, the Tigers rely on either a four out, one in or five out style of positionless motion basketball. Similar to FAU, the Tigers biggest threat is the players moving that do not have the ball as the Tigers use a variety of screens and shifts to get players open to receive lob passes underneath. Johni Broome leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding. They also have intricate rotations to create mismatches in the paint. In their lone loss, the Tigers got caught up in a back-and-forth affair with Baylor where the free throw line determined the final result with Baylor going 27-34 at the line.

Tigers Backcourt
Aden Holloway
1 FR G 6-1 178
13.2 Pts, 1.0 Reb, 3.8 Ast

Jaylin Williams
2 SR F 6-8 230
9.0 Pts, 6.4 Reb, 1.4 Ast

Denver Jones
12 JR G 6-4 195
8.6 Pts, 1.8 Reb, 2.0 Ast

K.D. Johnson
0 SR G 6-1 190
8.4 Pts, 1.4 Reb, 1.4 Ast

Chad Baker-Mazara
10 JR G 6-7 180
7.2 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 2.0 Ast

Tre Donaldson
3 SO G 6-2 190
5.6 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 3.2 Ast

Chaney Johnson
31 JR G 6-7 220
5.0 Pts, 5.4 Reb, 0.6 Ast

Tigers Frontcourt
Johni Broome
4 JR F 6-10 235
15.4 Pts, 7.6 Reb, 2.2 Ast

Dylan Cardwell
44 SR C 6-11 250
5.4 Pts, 4.4 Reb, 1.8 Ast

Chris Moore
5 SR F 6-6 240
3.8 Pts, 3.2 Reb, 1.6 Ast

What to expect from Auburns?
The Tigers will look to move the ball and rely on all five players being able to take the open shot. Focus is on Broome and Holloway. The pair account for a third of total scoring and Broome is adept at taking the inside pass, drawing in the defense, and passing out to the open shooter. Broome is averaging 3.8 fouls so that could be a factor.

Auburn has not really faced a significant offense outside of Baylor at this point but similar to the Owls they allow an extremely low number of assists. Opponents are only averaging around nine assists per game. Auburn on the opposite side averages just over 20 assists per game

Rebounding appears on the surface to be an advantage for the Tigers. They currently enjoy a seven rebound per game edge but a +20 edge over Alabama A&M and a +14 edge over SE Louisiana covers a +/- 5 in their other three games.

Auburn very much like the Hokies seem to be hit or miss on perimeter shooting and perimeter defense. They allowed Baylor to shoot 47.4% but held Noper Dome to 7.7% from outside. On offense they shot as high as 47% against Baylor and a low of 25% against Alabama A&M.

The Hokies
The Hokies could not have written a more complete collapse than what they delivered against FAU. In their 84-50 dismantling, the Hokies shot 12% from outside that only wasn't 0% due to a couple garbage time makes after the game was decided. FAU shot 41% from outside and 57% from the floor. The game started well and was as close as 25-24 with less than three minutes remaining in the first half. The second half was a completely different story, with FAU expanding the 32-24 halftime lead to 44-24 before the Hokies scored again. Hopefully they got it out of their system and are focused going into this game.

The biggest concern was that once the Hokies got down, they just seemed to be unable to execute their half court offense with any consistency. The small change of them pushing too hard carried over to the defensive end, as they allowed FAU quite a few odd man breaks.

MJ Collins continued to be a black hole shooting wise with a 1-6 night before injuring his knee in the second half. There has been no word on his status for this game. If he is unable to go, I would expect Nickel to start in his place.

The Hokies only had Pedulla and Cattoor finish in double digits but even they struggled significantly, shooting a combined 9-29 from the floor and 0-12 from outside.

In the final moments of the loss, the Hokies finally saw Patrick Wessler get on the floor. He was fouled on his only shot and went 1-2 at the line.

In Closing
Expect a fast-paced game which does not necessarily lend itself to the Hokies favor. They struggled to get the ball up the court against FAU's press and will likely see a better press defense employed for a good part of the game by the Tigers.

This paragraph applies to Auburn every bit as much as it did against FAU. Can the Hokies shut down the perimeter? Are the Hokies able to hit their outside shots? Neither team is strictly reliant on the outside, but the difference here goes a long way to deciding this contest. We got the extreme version here against FAU. I can't imagine we will see that same level of struggle again, but this is a road game in a well-attended SEC school. We will get to see how the Hokies handle the road environment.

Can the Hokies get Auburn in early foul trouble? The longer Auburn starters are forced to sit, the bigger the impact to this game. I am not sure the Hokies offense lends itself to this unless the Hokies can get the ball consistently inside to Kidd and Poteat.

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