Rhode Island (0-1) at Virginia Tech (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, November 12, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cassell Coliseum (9,847) -- Blacksburg, Virginia. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: URI 0-0, Virginia Tech 1-0. Away Record: URI 0-0, Virginia Tech 0-0. Neutral Record: URI 0-0, Virginia Tech 0-0. Conference Record: URI 0-0, Virginia Tech 0-0. Series Record: URI leads, 6-5
GAMES NOTES: Virginia Tech will look to make it two wins in two games for first year head coach James Johnson when the Hokies host the Rhode Island Rams at Hagan Arena on Monday night.
Rhode Island is also playing under a rookie head coach in Dan Hurley. After winning only seven games last season, the Rams were competitive against Norfolk State in their season opener but ran out of gas in the second half in a 67-55 defeat. Rhode Island led 30-25 at the half in the game, but couldn't hang on. The squad's depth was exposed, as Rhode Island has only nine players that are eligible to play on the roster. That meant that four starters played at least 32 minutes. Rhode Island will participate in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic next Saturday when it faces Ohio State at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
As for Virginia Tech, Johnson's first foray as a head coach went as well as it could have with the Hokies cruising to an 80-62 win over East Tennessee State in the season opener. Johnson is tasked with rebuilding a program that went 16-17 last season, its first losing campaign since 2006. Johnson spend five years as an assistant at Virginia Tech before this season and has a tough task with several players transferring and a key recruit (Montrezl Harrell) opting out. Next on the docket for the Hokies is a date with in-state foe VMI this Thursday.
In 11 previous meetings Rhode Island has come out on top six times against Virginia Tech.
The Rams failed to get in any sort of rhythm on offense in the opener as they connected on only 28.3 percent of their shots in the contest. The Rams also struggled to take advantage of a 30-18 edge in free throw attempts by only netting 19 shots from the charity stripe.
A lot rests on the shoulders of Nikola Malesevic (11.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg in 2011) coming into this season. Obviously Rhode Island still needs to find other players that will contribute consistently, as Malesevic put in 26 points and brought down nine rebounds against Norfolk State, a performance that will be hard to duplicate night-in and night-out. Xavier Munford certainly took enough shots to be considered the team's go-to scorer on the wings but he knocked down only 3-of-19 attempts from the floor for eight points and did not get to the line once. Andre Malone also looked rusty after playing in only 10 games last season. Marone hit on 3-of-11 shots from the floor and finished with 13 points thanks in large part to a 6-for-7 showing from the free throw line. Rhode Island did improve on defense in the loss after allowing 75.5 ppg last season, but it remains to be seen if that will continue going forward.
Virginia Tech surged to a 43-28 halftime lead and never looked back in its win over East Tennessee State. The Hokies were a solid 51.9 percent shooting team in the first half and distributed the ball nicely as a team with 19 assists total.
Erick Green was especially effective in the game with a team-high 21 points and six assists. He also collected a pair of steals. That type of effort his something Johnson came into the season expecting from Green, who averaged 15.6 points per game last season. Jarell Eddie (9.1 ppg in 2011) played well in the frontcourt posting a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Robert Brown also got into double figures in the game with 16 points while handing out five assists. Brown (6.8 ppg) was used primarily as a reserve last season but was inserted into the starting lineup in the opener where he should continue to reside as the season progresses. That will certainly be true if he continues to produce at a level similar to the opener.
Neither of these teams is likely to put on an offensive clinic game-in and game-out. If either team is more likely to light up the scoreboard with frequency it is Virginia Tech, especially against Rhode Island's limited roster.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 70, Rhode Island 58
11/12 10:44:10 ET