Previewing Virginia Tech

Ty Lawson may not be the only key player out of the lineup Saturday when the Tar Heels host Virginia Tech, a team that swept UNC a year ago. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for 1 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.

North Carolina (23-2, 8-2) vs. Virginia Tech (14-10, 5-5)
Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
1 p.m., CBS


"They're trying to be a number one seed. They want to win home games just like anyone else. They're Carolina. If they have a chance to beat us by 50, they'll beat us by 50 — that's the way it is." -- Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg

"The guy is just a beast — he's relentless. He plays harder than anyone in the country on a consistent basis — not on one play, on every play. That's the difference between him and others." -- Greenberg on Tyler Hansbrough


Season to Date: Virginia Tech enters Saturday's contest in Chapel Hill with a 14-10 (5-5 ACC) record. The Hokies have been dependant upon freshmen contributions this season, as the rookie class has accounted for 52.7 percent of the total minutes played for head coach Seth Greenberg's squad. Relying on youth to that extent typically includes a large dose of inconsistency, and the Hokies are no exception to the rule. Virginia Tech has had two three-game winning streaks over the last month, only to be separated by two two-game losing streaks, including losses last week against Miami (74-71) and at N.C. State (73-63).

Vassallo's Emergence: Entering the Hokies' first ACC game on Dec. 23, junior forward A.D. Vassallo was averaging 15.8 points per game, but that total has jumped to 17.3 points in conference play. Part of that success has come from behind the 3-point line, as Vassallo is connecting on 40.8 percent (60-of-147) of his attempts – good for third in the league. His rebounding averages have also increased, from 3.1 rebounds per game in non-conference games to 6.6 rpg in league contests.

Declining Defensive Presence? Virginia Tech leads the ACC in scoring defense (64.1), while only allowing its opponents to 40.5 percent shooting (3rd ACC). But in league-only games, the Hokies are giving up 73.9 points per game with a 43.4 shooting percentage. It should be noted, however, that both statistics still rank near the top of the ACC.

Man of Steal: Freshman forward Jeff Allen currently ranks 23rd nationally in steals per game with 2.27 thefts per contest, and is third among NCAA rookies. The Washington, D.C. native recorded five steals in the win over Maryland, and then topped that career-high with six steals in last week's loss to N.C. State. Allen is tied with senior forward Deron Washington for second-leading scorer on the team with an average of 12.7 points per game.

Overtime Theatrics: Virginia Tech is 3-0 in ACC overtime games this season and 2-0 in conference road overtime games. The Hokies have won their last four ACC road overtime games and are 5-1 all-time in such games, including last season's 81-80 victory over North Carolina, and hold a 7-1 mark in all ACC overtime games, home and away.

Last Meeting: No. 4 North Carolina lost to Virginia Tech, 81-80, in overtime at the Smith Center on Feb. 13, 2007. The Hokies' victory ended up being the only home UNC loss on the season. Tyler Hansbrough led Carolina with 22 points (14-of-18 free throws) and a team-high eight rebounds, while Wayne Ellington added 14 points and Ty Lawson contributed 13 points.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech, 55-12. The Tar Heels own a 25-6 record in Chapel Hill, but last season's loss was the first time the two programs had met in the Smith Center. The last three meetings have been decided by six points or less and two have been decided by three points or less.

Projected Starters:
23 Malcolm Delaney (6-2, 175, Fr.) - 8.3 ppg, 3.3 apg
40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6, 215, Jr.) – 16.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg
13 Deron Washington (6-7, 210, Sr.) – 12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg
33 J.T Thompson (6-6, 224, Fr.) - 5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
 0 Jeff Allen (6-7, 258, Fr.) – 12.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg

Key Reserves:
10 Hank Thorns (5-9, 140, Fr.) – 5.5 ppg, 3.1 apg
34 Cheick Diakite (6-9, 220, Jr.) – 2.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg
21 Lewis Witcher (6-9, 228, So.) – 2.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg

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