Mon, 29 Nov 2021

Virginia Tech seeks 5-0 start in matchup with Merrimack

Field Level Media
21 Nov 2021, 05:19 GMT+10

Winning the regular-season title in the Northeast Conference after being picked to finish last in the league was an improbable success story for Merrimack in its first year as a Division I program two seasons ago.

On Sunday afternoon, visiting Merrimack (3-2) will try to pull off another improbable feat when it takes on Virginia Tech (4-0) in Blacksburg, Va.

Two starters and three rotation players remain from that Merrimack team that made national news in 2019-20. But recapturing the magic of that transformational season has been challenging for sixth-year coach Joe Gallo. Since then, the Warriors have gone 12-11.

Merrimack has a physical presence in the middle with Jordan Minor, who leads the team in points (10.2 per game) and blocks (3.2 per game). Mikey Watkins, Mykel Derring and Ziggy Reid are veterans who were part of the title team.

Grad student Devin Jensen, who keyed a 55-45 win Friday over Lehigh with consecutive 3-pointers in the second half, came to Merrimack when it was in Division II playing teams such as Bentley, Franklin Pierce, Saint Rose and Holy Family. Now the Warriors face a much more challenging schedule.

"Playing at Gonzaga, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, that's where you want to play," Jensen said.

Virginia Tech is off to an impressive start, winning games by 35, 20, 26 and 30 points behind top scorer Keve Aluma (14.0 points per game) and top rebounder Justyn Mutts (10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds per game).

In Thursday's 85-55 win over Saint Francis, Nahiem Alleyne had 18 points. The Hokies also got strong work from reserves Darius Maddox, who went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, and David N'Guessan, who had seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

With a win, the Hokies are virtually assured of moving into the rankings. They were the top team among the others receiving votes last week.

"Our depth is coming together," head coach Mike Young said. "We're knocking on the door here."

--Field Level Media

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