Charlottesville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 12th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers continue pursuit of the ACC regular-season title, as they play host to the Miami-Florida Hurricanes at John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday night.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes are the defending ACC champions, but the team has faded into mediocrity this season, sporting a 14-13 overall record, which includes a mere 5-9 mark in conference play, placing Miami in the lower half of the league standings. The Hurricanes do enter this game on a bit of a high note with two straight wins though, including a 69-42 blasting of Boston College last Saturday.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers are the surprise team in the league this season and have quietly put together a stellar season. The team's 23-5 mark is its best start since the 1982-83 campaign and its 14-1 league record has set a school record. Virginia's one league loss came at Duke back on Jan. 13 and the team has reeled off 11 straight wins since then to claim the top spot in the league standings. It was Notre Dame that fell victim to the Cavaliers this past weekend, 70-49.
Miami holds a 10-5 series advantage over Virginia thanks to wins in four of the last five meetings.
The Hurricanes forced just 10 turnovers by Boston College, but contested every shot and held the Eagles to a mere 42 points, on .326 shooting. Offensively, Miami was a much more efficient .473 from the floor, with four players notching double-figure point totals in the lopsided win. Rion Brown led the charge with 22 points. Erik Swoope added 14 to the cause, while Manu Lecomte and Garrius Adams checked in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Strong defensive efforts are nothing new for Miami under Larranaga. This year is no different, as the Hurricanes are limiting foes to just 59.1 ppg and under 40 percent shooting (.397). Brown is the catalyst, as the 6-foot-6 senior leads the way in scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg). Adams (10.2 ppg) is the only other player currently averaging double digits in the scoring column, followed by Donnavan Kirk (8.5 ppg).
Virginia has been a defensive-minded team under Bennett and this season is certainly no different. The Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 55.2 ppg, while ranking ninth in field-goal percentage defense (.386). The team also boasts a comfortable +6.8 rebounding margin. There aren't any flashy scorers on the roster, as only Malcolm Brogdon (12.3 ppg) and Joe Harris (11.5 ppg) boast double-figure scoring averages. However, players like Justin Anderson (8.9 ppg), Anthony Gill (7.8 ppg) and Akil Mitchell (7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) have certainly made sizable contributions this season.
The Cavaliers recorded another defensive gem in the rout of Notre Dame. Virginia held the Irish to a mere .389 shooting performance, while holding a 31-23 edge in rebounding. After heading into the intermission tied at 30-30, Virginia shot a scorching .762 from the floor over the final 20 minutes to cruise to the win. Mitchell and Gill led the way with 15 points apiece. Brogdon had a strong all-around game, with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.